SYDNEY (Reuters) - A bushfire destroyed nearly 100 homes in western Australia as it swept through countryside south of Perth, but there were no casualties reported after emergency officials and local media said on Friday that three missing people had been found safe.
Fanned by blustery, hot winds, the bushfire, which razed 58,000 hectares (143,321 acres) of land this week, ripped through the small rural town of Yarloop on Thursday night.
Around 95 homes were destroyed the town of 545 people, along with its post office, fire station and shops, media reports said.
“I believe we’ve had what I would suggest are catastrophic losses within Yarloop,” said Wayne Gregson, Western Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner.
Three people, who were registered as missing, were found safe, while most of people who stayed to defend their properties were being evacuated by air or road, The Australian newspaper reported.
“It just got out of control...after that it just ripped through, it was quite scary,” volunteer firefighter Jesse Puccio told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “It’s like when you see in the war when the napalm bombers go through.”
The bushfire continues to threaten other beef and dairy producing towns in the state, emergency workers said.
Alcoa Inc said two of its buildings have been destroyed but its Western Australia alumina refining operations were unaffected by the fire.
Australian has suffered a series of fires due to a long hot, dry spell.
Four people were killed in a series of bushfires sparked by lightning in Western Australia in November, two people were killed in fires in South Australia state, and more than 100 homes were destroyed in fires on Christmas Day in Victoria state.
Wildfires are an annual summer event in Australia, but rising temperatures have prompted some scientists to warn that climate change could increase the length and intensity of the summer fire season.
Australia experienced its fifth hottest year on record in 2015, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, which has been keeping statistics since 1910.
Reporting by Colin Packham. Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in MELBOURNE; Editing by Michael Perry and Simon Cameron-Moore