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Australian bushfires set to worsen
SYDNEY, Jan 23 (AFP) Jan 23, 2006
Cooler temperatures Monday helped thousands of firefighters battling bushfires in three Australian states but officials warned that extreme weather conditions were expected later in the week.

Blazes in the southern states of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania have destroyed several homes and buildings as they burn through thousands of hectares of land. Another large bushfire is raging in Western Australia.

Two bodies were found in a burned-out car in Victoria but it was not known if they had died from the fires.

Firefighters were taking advantage of milder temperatures and lower winds to assess the fires, said Bob Brinkman of the Victorian department of sustainability and environment.

"Conditions are milder now and the threat has eased," he said in a joint statement with fire officials. But he cautioned that extreme fire weather conditions lay ahead.

"Over the next two days we will be consolidating control lines, doing some more backburning and positioning ourselves ahead of the predicted hot weather on Thursday," he said.

In the Victorian town of Anakie a fire covering about 6,200 hectares (15,300 acres) has destroyed at least three homes.

In the Western Australian town of Dwellingup, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) southeast of Perth, residents have been warned that a fire burning nearby could double in size before it is extinguished.

The deliberately lit blaze has destroyed more than 2,000 hectares, a spokesman said.

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