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Raging brush fire destroys dozens of homes in Australia

Hundreds of residents fled the seaside town of Tathra, where the fire consumed homes and businesses.ripped through the community. Brushfires burn through areas of New South Wales in Australia, Tathra - 19 Mar 2018
Hundreds of residents fled the seaside town of Tathra, where the fire consumed homes and businesses.ripped through the community. Brushfires burn through areas of New South Wales in Australia, Tathra - 19 Mar 2018(DEAN LEWINS/EPA/Shutterstock)

SYDNEY — A devastating weekend fire that continued to rage into Monday consumed at least 69 homes in southern New South Wales and cut power to tens of thousands of homes, the state’s rural fire service said.

The blaze began midday Sunday in Tarraganda, southeast of Bega, and quickly crossed the Bega River before advancing toward the seaside town of Tathra. Hundreds of Tathra’s 1,600 residents fled to safety in Bega after receiving alerts.

As Monday morning dawned, aerial footage showed the still-smoking extent of the damage. No serious injuries or fatalities had been reported, but one woman was being treated for respiratory problems and burns, said Shane Fitzsimmons, the commissioner for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

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The blaze, which covered almost 4 square miles, caused power failures and disrupted cellphone service because of downed power lines and damaged cellular towers.

The fire killed many cattle and sheep, but the extent of the livestock losses has not be assessed.

The blaze comes amid increasing concern about extreme bush fires in southern and eastern Australia, with climate change and a paucity of rainfall believed to be behind the lengthening of the fire season from October through March.

NEW YORK TIMES