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article imageAustralia firefighters battle deadly inferno

By Saeed Khan (AFP)     Nov 25, 2015 in World

Firefighters on Thursday searched burnt-out cars and homes after a devastating "Armageddon-like" blaze in Australia left two dead and 16 in hospital after raging across a 40-kilometre (25-mile) front.

Cooler conditions and lighter winds aided crews after a terrifying day on Wednesday, with the huge bushfire slowly being brought under control.

"Our preliminary estimate is we've probably got 60 percent of the fire contained," said Country Fire Service chief officer Greg Nettleton, with the inferno burning through some 90,000 hectares (220,000 acres) of land, razing at least 16 homes.

"We are hopeful we will have the fire contained some time tomorrow."

Australia bushfire
Australia bushfire
AFP, AFP Graphic

South Australia state Premier Jay Weatherill said two people died around the town of Pinery, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of Adelaide.

"The confirmed fatality number remains at two," he said on Thursday afternoon, adding that three people earlier listed as missing were safe.

He added that 16 people were in hospital, with five in either a critical or serious condition with significant burns.

South Australia Health tweeted that its medics had treated 35 people for serious burns, smoke inhalation and minor injuries.

A burnt vehicle is seen near a completely gutted property following a bushfire in Freeling  north of...
A burnt vehicle is seen near a completely gutted property following a bushfire in Freeling, north of Adelaide, on November 26, 2015
Saeed Khan, AFP

"We know that one of those people has burns to more than 80 percent of their body," Weatherill said.

"Their condition is being closely monitored. But we do hold grave concerns for them."

The blaze -- which preliminary investigations suggest was not deliberately lit -- also incinerated outbuildings, farm machinery and vehicles as it sped across a stretched-out front, driven by strong, swirling winds late Wednesday, he added.

Livestock was also lost with reports that thousands of chickens and pigs were killed.

- Nothing left -

Police Chief Inspector Alex Zimmermann said the fire had moved with frightening speed.

Bushfires are common in Australia's hotter months
Bushfires are common in Australia's hotter months
Brenton Edwards, AFP/File

"We do have teams out there going through the burnt-out dwellings and cars on roads which have been incinerated," he said.

"There's been complete destruction of some of these vehicles."

Nettleton said it might still be early in the fire season but the land in South Australia was incredibly dry and only long, soaking rain would cut the fire risk.

"Until we get really substantial rainfall across the state, we're in a dangerous fire situation for the summer," he said.

Brendan Moten described how the sky darkened with ash as he fled his rural property and sought safety in the town of Kapunda, with the fire raging around him and his family.

Farmers move fodder away from a burning godown following bushfires in Freeling  north of Adelaide  o...
Farmers move fodder away from a burning godown following bushfires in Freeling, north of Adelaide, on November 26, 2015
Saeed Khan, AFP

"A lot of people were gathered in the main street and there was smoke and ash and it was Armageddon for a while," he told reporters.

"I feel lucky. Our place was under threat for a while... It was heading our way but it didn't get there. It went around."

The blaze has hit rural communities hard and ruined crops.

"There's nothing left, it's absolutely devastation," grain farmer Peter March told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"This is my 59th harvest and I've never seen anything like it before."

Bushfires are common in Australia's hotter months, with the latest fatalities taking to six the number killed since the annual season began.

Four people died last week in Western Australia, including tourists from Britain, Norway and Germany.

That blaze, sparked by lightning around Esperance, 750 kilometres (450 miles) southeast of Perth, was finally brought under control late Wednesday after tearing through almost 130,000 hectares of bushland and farmland.

It destroyed two homes and ravaged grain crops.

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