December 10, 2013
Australian wildfires kill one, destroy 100 homes near Sydney
Wildfires have claimed one life and destroyed at least 100 homes near Sydney, Australia's biggest city, after forcing thousands to evacuate their homes, and authorities warned more homes could be lost as fires burned out of control.
Fuelled by unseasonably high temperatures and strong winds, 100 fires were still burning in New South Wales state in Australia's east, more than 30 of which were uncontained, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said.
A 63-year-old man died from a heart attack while trying to defend his home from a fire in a coastal community a short drive north of Sydney, an RFS spokesman said.
Thousands of people spent the night in evacuation centres on the western outskirts of the city, as well as to the north and the south.
Astonished Sydneysiders watched as a thick pall of smoke from the fires in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney moved across the city over some of its best-known landmarks, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
Callers to Sydney talkback radio stations reported ash and burnt leaves falling on some of the city's famous beaches, including Bondi.
Emergency warnings remained in place for fires in the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast, just north of Sydney.
The biggest threat was on an uncontained fire in Wyong, 75 km (45 miles) north of Sydney, with some homes believed to have been destroyed, the RFS said in its latest update.