Fires raging across southern Australia claim first victim

Wildfires which are continuing to tear their way across southern Australia have killed one man and destroyed several homes.

Police said the man’s body was found in a burned-out car near the small town of Seaton, about 120 miles (200km) east of Melbourne in Victoria state.

The man is the first person confirmed killed in the hundreds of fires which have been raging across the continent since the Australian summer began.

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A 61-year-old firefighter was also found dead last Sunday, a few miles from a backburning operation in Tasmania. Officials have not yet determined how he died.

Several firefighters in New South Wales collapsed from the heat on Thursday as temperatures soared past 40C (104F) in many areas.

Cooler temperatures and rain have been predicted across much of the country’s south-east for the weekend. Nevertheless, fires are expected to continue burning.

“It’s a very dangerous environment we’re experiencing today,” Victoria Country Fire Authority manager Bill Johnstone said. “Given the conditions, it’s probably as bad as it can get.”

Four holiday homes and one residential house were destroyed near Seaton while two houses were burnt to the ground in a fire in southern New South Wales’s Bega Valley.

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