Wildfires – Australia – Christmas Day bushfires

More than 100 homes burned down in a leading Australia tourist area as Christmas Day bushfires remained out of control and dangerous on Saturday, with officials predicting more blazes to come in the hot southern summer.

While around 150 firefighters battled the flames along parts of Victoria state’s picturesque Great Ocean Road, teams moved in to assess damage from fires that had lit up the night sky along the coast on Christmas evening.

A spokeswoman for the state’s emergency services said 85 homes had been confirmed burned in the community of Wye River and another 18 in nearby Separation Creek, for a total of 103 in the two townships located about 120 kilometres (75 miles) southwest of Melbourne.

The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s biggest tourist draws with its spectacular scenery and bizarre rock formations just offshore in the Southern Ocean. It remained mostly closed to traffic on Saturday during what is typically one of its busiest times of the year.

Although an evacuation alert was lifted for the popular tourist town of Lorne and rain overnight had helped the firefighting operation, officials said the fires were far from out.

The fires started with a lightning strike on Dec. 19 and, fanned by winds, have already burned more than 2,000 hectares.

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