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Spate of Australian wildfires destroys at least 30 homes

Date: 18-Oct-13
Country: AUSTRALIA
Author: Lincoln Feast

A spate of wildfires has destroyed at least 30 homes west of Sydney, prompting evacuations, blanketing Australia's biggest city in choking yellow smoke and closing highways.

Fuelled by unseasonably high temperatures and strong winds, dozens of fires were burning in the Blue Mountains region and other parts of New South Wales state on Thursday, threatening more properties, the Rural Fire Service said. There were no immediate reports of deaths.

"If we get through with less than 100 homes destroyed today, we have been lucky," RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio, describing the conditions as the most dangerous in the state in a decade. Up to 600 firefighters were battling almost 80 fires.

The airport at Newcastle, 160 km (100 miles) north of Sydney, was closed and schools, workplaces and entire neighborhoods were evacuated.

Some relief from the hot, windy weather was expected late on Thursday, according to weather forecasters.

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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