Power lines blamed for 2 of Australia’s dozens of fires
(CNN) — Two of the dozens of bush fires burning out of control in the eastern Australian state of New South Wales were sparked by power lines that had been buffeted by strong winds, fire officials said Saturday, citing preliminary investigations.
In the Springwood fire, 193 homes have been destroyed and another 109 damaged. In the Mt. Victoria fire, seven homes have been destroyed and one damaged, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said in a statement.
Fire investigators were still looking into the cause of the other fires.
Earlier, authorities said they were trying to determine whether one of the fires was caused by a military training exercise.
A huge blaze near Lithgow, New South Wales, started on October 16, when officials “were conducting an explosive ordnance training activity,” the Australian Department of Defense said.
Investigators were trying to determine whether the two events are linked, the statement said.
Authorities said this week that some 95 fires were burning and that 34 of them were out of control.
The Springwood and Winmalee areas of the Blue Mountains were among the hardest hit, the fire service said. It suggested residents seek shelter and protect themselves from the heat. Emergency alert telephone warning messages were being sent to people in the area, the fire service said.
The fires have caused numerous road closures in the state, the fire service said, adding that a damage assessment was underway.
At least one fatality has been reported. Walter Lindner, 63, died of a suspected heart attack on Friday while defending his home against a blaze on the New South Wales Central Coast, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Lindner collapsed while working alongside his neighbor to save his heritage-listed homestead, according to ABC. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The toll has been emotional for many. “I said to my husband, I remembered when he carried me across the threshold,” a 54-year-old woman whose house was a total loss told Reuters. “I’ve got to start again, but we will … as a family, together.”
The Blue Mountains area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site west of Sydney. Fires sent plumes of smoke into the air.
New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell warned Thursday that hundreds of homes could be destroyed.
Footage broadcast earlier by CNN affiliate Seven Network showed flames consuming homes.
By Kevin Wang