Worst Fires in 30 Years Ring Sydney

December 6, 2002

The worst series of bushfires in 30 years are currently burning out of control on the outskirts and in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia’s largest city; at least 20 homes have been destroyed and many others damaged.

The fires, which are more or less expected during the dry summer months, have taken on a new character this year due to a prolonged drought that has lowered water levels and made the brush tinder dry. Around 80 separate fires remain out of control, despite some rain overnight and falling temperatures. Strong winds are fanning the flames to the north, west and south of the city.

So far two people have died in the blazes. A 72 year-old man suffered a fatal heart attack while trying to round up his livestock; another man was reported burned to death in his trailer. Thousands of residents have fled their homes as more than 3,000 firefighters battle to control the fires.

The government of new South Wales has pledged funds to help those left homeless by the fires, and insurers will also be expected to start paying claims as rapidly as possible. Local authorities have not as yet made any estimates of the losses from the fires.

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