Natural disaster strikes again as Western Australia faces wildfires

Wildfires tore across the outskirts of the Australian city of Perth yesterday, destroying at least 35 homes, authorities said.

Two fires fanned by hot summer winds were burning in forested areas to the north and south-east of Perth in Western Australia, the Fire and Emergency Services Authority said.

At Roleystone and the nearby community of Kelmscott, residents were told to evacuate from the path of a fire that erupted after noon and had claimed 35 homes and was threatening more, the authority said.

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"There is a threat to lives and homes. You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive," it said in a warning statement. It said people should leave immediately if they believe the path is clear, otherwise they should dig in and be prepared to take shelter in their homes.

Police closed roads leading to threatened areas, preventing residents who were not at home when the fire flared from returning.

The fires were expected to burn through the night, and shelters were set up for hundreds of people fleeing their homes.

"When the phone rang and they said, 'Get out', we got out," said David Locke, a pensioner who went to the shelter at Roleystone with his wife Carole and their cat Daisy.

Television news showed a fire front raging and several houses burned to the ground. Helicopters dumped loads of water on the flames from the air.

Authority spokesman Rick Tyers said the fire had scorched almost 1,000 acres by Sunday evening, and strong winds and huge smoke plumes were making firefighting very difficult.

The fires, almost a year to the day since wildfires ripped across Victoria, killing 173 people, come as huge areas of Queensland recover from a cyclone that struck last week and from flooding in Queensland and southern Victoria.