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Firefighter dead in Australian bushfire

Jan. 14, 2013 at 8:18 AM

TARANNA, Australia, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- A firefighter battling one of the hundreds of ongoing Australian bushfires has died in Tasmania, officials said.

Chief Fire Officer Mike Brown of the Tasmanian Fire Service and the Premier said the 60-year-old Victorian man, whose name was not reported, was found dead Sunday about 1 miles from the fire edge east of Taranna.

"It's the worst news we can get, one piece of news we certainly don't want to get," Brown said.

The exact cause of death of the man was not reported.

Meanwhile, scientists at the Australian National University said that though some buildings at the Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, were destroyed, the facility's 15 telescopes remain intact.

"The fact that the telescopes seem to be undamaged is significant because this is the largest observatory site in Australia -- it's the home to the largest optical telescope in Australia," ANU Acting Vice Chancellor Erik Lithander said.

The same fire that damaged the observatory destroyed at least 33 homes, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Monday.

Record-breaking high temperatures and fierce winds have whipped up hundreds of bushfires across the country, destroying thousands of acres of crops and livestock.

Cooler temperatures overnight aided firefighters in containing some of the bushfires, though high temperatures are again expected for later in the week, ABC reported.

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