Australian officials defend early warning system after devastating Tathra fire

Fire bans have been issued across NSW

The fires, believed to have been sparked by lightning on Saturday, were raging out of control across the state of Victoria's rural southwest. Despite the damage, authorities said there were no reports of serious injuries or deaths.

In Tathra, over 1,000 hectares were burnt and more than 60 firefighters were continuing to battle the flames Monday, supported by three water-bombing aircraft, NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Greg Allan told AFP. One of the few residents who stayed behind drove the empty streets yesterday, her hand covering her mouth in disbelief as she passed the flattened properties. I'd already got the computer with the hard drive with the baby photos on it and then Deb just said grab two toys and a book.

Emergency officials said conditions should ease later on Monday but "watch and act" warnings remained in place for five locations.

The Insurance Council of Australia has declared the fire a "catastrophe", meaning claims by those affected by the blaze will be given priority.

"You can't attribute any particular event, whether it's a flood or fire or a climate change".

More than 70 homes and businesses had been severely damaged or destroyed and four residents were treated for smoke inhalation while one firefighter was injured, according to local authorities. "We are the land of droughts and flooding rains, we're the land of bushfires", Turnbull said. Several schools in the area will be closed today.

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A separate fire in the state of Victoria razed at least nine homes and destroyed 14,000 hectares of farmland, killing hundreds of sheep and cows.

"It is fair to say with how quickly that fire moved, there wasn't a lot of time".

In September, Australians were warned to prepare for a risky bushfire season after one of the driest winters on record.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the forest fire danger index "was the highest on record for March for most areas of the NSW south coast from Nowra southwards, as well as far east Gippsland and parts of the Monaro".

In January, hundreds of holidaymakers had to be rescued in a boat evacuation from the beaches of the Royal National Park south of Sydney, when they became trapped by bushfires.

A house thats has been destroyed by a bushfire can be seen near the town of Cobden, located south west of Melbourne in Australia, March 18, 2018.

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