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Wildfires rage across southeast Australia

ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Australian fire crews continue to battle hundreds of wildfires, throughout the south-east of Australia on Wednesday (January 9) for the sixth continuos day. At Nowra on the south coast of New South Wales flames lapped the highway as fresh blazes ignite due to hot winds. The Nine Network reported that more than 140 fires are burning across New South Wales. Fires still pose threats to regional communities but the Bureau of Meteorology has said a cool change is working it's way along the east of the country but it is expected to heat up again by Friday (January 11). At Carngham Station near Ballarat in the state of Victoria fire has destroyed a homestead that sits on 2000 hectares of property. Local media reported that up to seven people have been treated in hospital after a grass fires swept throughout the area on Tuesday (January 8). The severe fire conditions replicated those of 2009, when "Black Saturday" wildfires in Victoria state killed 173 people and caused 4.4 billion U.S. dollars worth of damage. After a week-long heatwave, bushfires are ablaze in five of Australia's six states, with more than 137 fires in the most populous state NSW, and in forests around the capital Canberra. Around 100 houses, the majority on the island state of Tasmania, have been destroyed by bushfires in recent days, and many people are still missing in fire-ravaged areas. Fire officials declared five areas of southern NSW as catastrophic, meaning if fires ignited they could not be controlled and advised people to evacuate. The record heatwave forced the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to extend its extreme temperature limit, adding new pink and purple colours to forecast maps to allow for temperatures of above 54 degrees Celsius (129 Fahrenheit). The bureau is forecasting 54 degrees Celsius in central Australia next Monday (January 14). The heatwave, which began in Western Australia on Dec. 27 and lasted eight days, was the fiercest in more than 80 years in that state and has spread east across the nation, making it the widest-ranging heatwave in more than a decade. Strong wind gusts had created a "dome of heat" covering much of the island continent, said climate experts. Australia, the world's driest inhabited continent, is particularly vulnerable to bushfires, fueled each summer by extreme heat and by what scientists say is creeping climate shift blamed for hotter average temperatures globally. Authorities warned earlier in the Australian summer that much of the country faced extreme fire conditions this season, after several years of cooler conditions that had aided forest growth, but also created tinder dry fire fuel conditions.

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