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article imageThe Beast is Alive; Millions in Oz Warned of New Fire Threat

By Michael Squires     Mar 2, 2009 in World
As North America awakes, Australians face The Beast. Text messages will be sent to millions of Australians in the State of Victoria to warn them of the fire threat, as extreme weather conditions reach new threat levels.
Firefighters fear winds gusting up to 150 kilometres an hour, accompanied by temperatures in the high 30s, could cause conditions as bad as those seen on the day when at least 210 people died.
Four large fires are still burning across the state and the extreme fire conditions forecast for tomorrow mean any new fires could spread quickly.
The forecast of high winds could result in all aerial fighting aircraft being grounded.
Ewan Waller from the Department of Sustainability and Environment says the winds pose a major threat,
"We are expecting a lot of trees to come down with the wind. A lot are unstable already because of the fires and the very dry conditions. We may well move firefighters, most likely will move firefighters, off the line very early. We may well not be able to use aircraft continually because of the strong winds. That will be a factor. There'll be a period of time in the middle of the day, depending on where you are in the state, where aircraft may not be able to fly."
Local telephone company, Telstra will send at least two million text messages to Victorians today to warn them of the overnight fire threat.
The Emergency Services Commissioner, Bruce Esplin, says other services providers have been encouraged to do the same.
"It's effectively an electronic door-knock," he said.
"We're doing everything we can to get messages out to people to be alert, be prepared, understand that tonight could be a dangerous night."
Adding to the threat power outages are likely tomorrow because of the forecast hot, windy weather.
With firefighters facing a potentially lethal mix of flames, heat and winds approaching 150 kilometres (93 miles) an hour on Tuesday, Victorian Premier John Brumby said he wanted to ensure warnings reached as wide an audience as possible.
"It's been apparent that some people don't listen to the radio, don't watch TV and don't read newspapers either, so getting that message through the mobile phone will be another way to make sure that people are advised," he said.
Readers with family or friends in Australia can check with this site for continual updates.
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