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Australian bushfires take three lives amid struggle to contain them
SYDNEY, Jan 23 (AFP) Jan 23, 2006
Australian bushfires raging in four states Monday claimed three lives when an adult and a child likely died when their car was overtaken by flames and a firefighter was killed in a road accident, police said.

The wildfires have destroyed at least eight homes and thousands of hectares of land in the southern states of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania and in Western Australia.

Authorities have warned that the fires, despite cooler temperatures and lower winds Monday, could become more dangerous later in the week when temperatures are expected to pass 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

Police said the bodies of an adult and a child were found inside a crashed car some 220 kilometres (135 miles) west of Melbourne.

They said the crash was not likely severe enough to have caused their deaths, and the pair probably died stranded in the disabled vehicle as fire swept over them.

"It appears the car... ran off the road, the fire may well have overtaken the car," local District Inspector Martin Dorman said.

Victorian police said a firefighter died when his truck overturned while tackling a separate blaze in the state's northeast.

In the Victorian tourist region of the Grampians, residents were returning home to the remains of their houses which they had abandoned in the face of the fires.

"The house is completely destroyed," Mount Lubra resident Jenny Hayme told ABC radio.

Victorian Premier Steve Bracks has led calls for vigilence ahead of worsening weather conditions expected to last until the weekend.

"We have a very high alert fire situation that will occur on Thursday, which is Australia Day, which will go through to the weekend," he said.

"We have dry conditions across the state -- it is not over. These fires are still to be fought."

The fires in South Australia and Tasmania are not yet threatening property but in the Western Australian town of Dwellingup, 100 kilometres (60 miles) southeast of Perth, residents have been warned that a nearby fire could double in size before it is extinguished.

The deliberately lit blaze has destroyed more than 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres).

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