Roaring summer brush fires fanned by 50 mph winds...

ADELAIDE, Australia -- Roaring summer brush fires fanned by 50 mph winds swept southern Australia today, killing 30 people, injuring hundreds and destroying at least 100 homes.

Thirty of the injured were hospitalized.


Authorities said the fires were the worst in 50 years, claiming 18 victims in South Australia and 12 more in the neighboring Victoria.

One of the victims was a volunteer firefighter and three people died while trapped in their cars.

Fires were burning over hundreds of square miles in the southeast corner of South Australia and stretched right down to the border with Victoria.

The Mount Burr pine forest, about 168 miles southeast of Adelaide, was reported almost burned out.

Fire authorities said 100 homes had been destroyed and damages would be in the millions of dollars.

Scores of homes, one hotel and two gas stations were destroyed in fires at Mount Osmond, 8 miles from the port city of Adelaide, and 40 homes were destroyed in the Adelaide Hills alone.

A $12 million art collection at Mount Osmond was destroyed when a $300,000 mansion collapsed.

At the German settlement of Handorf on the city's outskirts, 50 patients were evacuated from a nursing home that was destroyed by the rapidly moving fire.


By late today, 6,000 weary firefighters aided by a drop in temperature from an earlier high of 108 degrees began to gain control of the fires.

Fire authorities said it was not known when or where the fires started but by noon they were raging on a 'broad front' near Adelaide, fanned by winds gusting up to 50 mph. With a population of almost 1 million, Adelaide is Australia's fourth largest city.

Staff at fire headquarters at Greenhill, about 9 miles from Adelaide, said they heard women and children screaming and crying over the phone as volunteer firefighter Murray Nichol telephoned for help.

All the residents were safely evacuated but 16 homes were lost.

One resident who lost his home, Peter Cox, smeared with black ash, told a firefighter 'you just don't know when to leave.

'You see flames where you don't expect to see them. I went back for a television set and when I came out flames were everywhere. I thought this is it, I've left it too late.'

Several of South Australia's famed wine making areas were blazing including the Clare Valley, 90 miles north of Adelaide and Maclaren Flats, 30 miles south of the state capital.


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