Lightning strikes spark wildfires across Victoria, homes destroyed, thousands forced to evacuate, Australia

Lightning strikes spark wildfires across Victoria, homes destroyed, thousands forced to evacuate, Australia

Thousands of people were forced to evacuate as 19 wildfires rage through Australia's southeastern state of Victoria. Series of warnings were issued over the past couple of days, urging residents in danger to 'act immediately to survive.'

According to Andrew Crisp, the Victoria emergency management commissioner, the fires were caused by lightning strikes late last week. "This is a challenging time and it's going to be a very busy time for firefighters and emergency services across the state," Crisp said.

Two of the fires, at Bunyip and Yinnar South in West Gippsland, have so far destroyed 11 homes and other buildings.

The Bunyip State Forest fire has so far burned through 12 000 ha (29 653 acres) and is currently the priority as it threatest the largest number of homes. 

Cardinia Shire Mayor Graeme Moore described it as devastating.

New emergency warnings were issued for Dargo and areas near Licola on March 5 as more than 2 000 firefighters continued to battle the blazes across eastern Victoria.

Minister for Emergency Services Lisa Neville said the area where the fire started was part of a fuel burn in 2016; however, drought in recent years has prevented further fuel-burning activities.

Crisp said better weather and possibly rain is expected in the state on Wednesday, March 6 and could help firefighters battle the blazes. Significant improvement is expected on March 7 and 8 as winds diminish.

Featured image credit: Country Fire Authority

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