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Australia braces for severe bushfire season

Source:  Copyright 2009, Reuters
Date:  October 21, 2009
Byline:  Rob Taylor
Original URL: Status ONLINE

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd warned the nation Wednesday to brace for a severe bushfire season as fire crews battled intense blazes stoking memories of infernos earlier this year which killed 173 people.

With the fire season barely under way, firefighters from two Australian states have been battling huge blazes threatening the northeastern tropical city of Rockhampton and coastal hamlets further south in New South Wales.

"I would urge all Australians to make sure they are fully prepared for the challenges which will be alive during this bushfire season," Rudd told parliament.

Authorities have warned the current fire season could rival "Black Saturday" blazes in February which scorched through southern Victoria state, destroying more than 2,000 homes and leaving behind a A$1.12 billion ($1.04 billion) insurance bill.

Those fires, fanned by a heat wave and winds topping 100 km per hour, caused the highest ever loss of life ...

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