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Sydney sweats through hot rainy summer

Australian residents urged to flee 18-metre flames
Sydney (AFP) March 1, 2010 - A wildfire towering up to 18 metres (60 feet) high bore down on homes in Australia's western Outback on Monday, officials said, urging residents to flee. An emergency warning released at 5:00 pm Sydney time (0600 GMT) said houses in an area near Eneabba, north of Perth, will be in danger in a matter of hours as the blaze burns out of control. "Homes in these areas will be impacted by fire in the next three hours. Embers are likely to be blown around your home," the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) of Western Australia said in a statement.

"This means if you are in this area your best option for survival is away from the fire. If the way is clear, leave for your safer place now and take your survival kit with you. "Relocating at the last minute is deadly." Some 166 firemen using dozens of fire engines and aircraft were battling the flames, which have already consumed 22,000 hectares (54,000 acres) of land. FESA could not say how many homes were at risk in the sparsely populated area but said it was mainly farmland. Western Australia, a giant state four times the size of Texas, has just sweltered through its hottest southern hemisphere summer with temperatures averaging nearly 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) March 1, 2010
Western Australia has sweated through its hottest ever summer, recording average temperatures just shy of 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), officials said on Monday.

Weather officials said the giant, dusty state roasted at an average of about 29.6 Celsius during the southern hemisphere summer, 0.2 degrees over the previous high in 1997-1998.

The state capital Perth also endured its driest summer since records began in 1897, with just 0.2 millimetres (0.01 inches) of rain falling in December, January and February. State-wide information is only available since 1950.

"Certainly we had below average rain in the southwest of the state for the start of the year," Stephen McInerney, duty forecaster at the state's weather bureau, told AFP.

"For the next three months we're expecting a 65 percent chance of lower than average rainfall, so we're looking at a continuation of the dry conditions."

Severe weather in Australia, parts of which have been hit by a 10-year drought, has heightened public concern over climate change especially after the country's worst ever bushfires claimed 173 in the state of Victoria last year.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was elected on a strong environmental platform in 2007 and took a leading role at the Copenhagen UN climate talks in December, despite his failure to pass flagship carbon-trading laws.

Western Australia, which is bigger than Western Europe and about four times the size of Texas, was also hit by fires last year when 38 homes north of Perth were engulfed in December.

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