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Dublin: 10°C Wednesday 14 April 2021
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Reports of looting as Australian wildfires rage

Two teenage boys have also been charged in relation to deliberately starting fires.

Fires in New South Wales
Fires in New South Wales

FIREFIGHTERS ARE BATTLING an enormous blaze in southeastern Australia today, with officials warning it could merge with another to create a “mega-fire” if weather conditions worsen.

With hundreds of people evacuated due to the encroaching flames, police revealed they were dealing with reports of looting from victims, although the number of incidents was small.

State Premier Barry O’Farrell called looters “scumbags” and vowed to track them down.

Deliberately lighting fires

Meanwhile, an 11-year-old boy was charged today with deliberately lighting two fires on the New South Wales Central Coast last week, one of which forced hundreds of people to flee their homes and saw the closure of Newcastle airport.

Another boy, aged 15, was also charged with “intentionally causing fire” over one of those blazes, according to the Australian Associated Press, while a 14-year-old was charged with starting a separate fire Sunday near Rutherford, a suburb north of Sydney, which was quickly extinguished.

Crews have been fighting fires that flared in high winds and searing heat across the state of New South Wales last week with more than 200 homes destroyed so far and many others damaged.

While dozens of blazes have been contained, 63 were still alight and 17 of them were out of control, enveloping Sydney in a thick white smoke haze that prompted warnings for people to stay indoors and avoid exercise.

Lithgow

The main concern today was near the town of Lithgow west of Sydney, where a huge fire – with a perimeter of 300 kilometres – has already burned more than 42,000 hectares (103,000 acres) and was threatening the communities of Bilpin, Bell, Clarence and Dargan.

Officials fear intensifying heat and winds on Tuesday and Wednesday could push it into another blaze at nearby Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains and then move towards the populated areas of Katoomba and Leura.

Firefighters spent the night and much of today building containment lines to try to prevent such an event, before a predicted worsening of weather conditions.

Another major fire around the Springwood area of the Blue Mountains, where almost 200 houses were razed last week, escalated to the emergency declaration level — along with another in Wilton southwest of Sydney, which was later downgraded.

State Emergency Services Minister Mike Gallacher said every possible resource was being used, including firefighters drafted in from other states, with the option that the military could be deployed.

© AFP 2013

Read: More than 200 homes destroyed as wildfires threaten Sydney outskirts>

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