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Several missing in Australia bushfire

Several missing in Australia bushfire

Several missing after Australia bushfire

Media caption"I still can't believe it, I saw a town disintegrate before my eyes" – Chris Gable a volunteer firefighter in Western Australia

At least three people are missing after a bushfire that devastated a town in Western Australia and continues to threaten others.

Yarloop, south of Perth, was worst hit, with at least 130 properties destroyed. But State Premier Colin Barnett has said it will be rebuilt.

The blaze, covering some 70,000 hectares, is approaching Harvey.

The town is being evacuated and emergency warnings remain in place for Waroona and other areas.

Gusts of up to 60km/h (37mph) had fanned the blaze, known as the Waroona fire, to heights of 50m (150ft).

The strong winds have now eased, but the fire, which began on Wednesday, remains unpredictable.

Firefighter's account of Australia Waroona fire

How events unfolded

Fighting Australia's bushfire threat

In pictures: Bushfire devastates swathes of Western Australia

"We're seeing conditions that we've not seen before on this type of fire, particularly when it went through Yarloop," Western Australia Fire Commissioner Wayne Gregson said.

Some 250 firefighters are reported to be deployed, and reinforcements are being sent from New South Wales.

Premier Barnett, visiting Yarloop residents at an evacuation centre, said the town would continue "but probably not a Yarloop of its previous size".

It remains unclear how many of the town's more than 500 residents can will be able to return.

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FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES

Image caption

This handout photo from firefighters shows the Waroona fire burning near Yarloop

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@discomamasita

Image caption

Image from Twitter user Emma McIntosh shows the historic Yarloop Workshops and Steam Museum burning

Four firefighters were injured battling the blaze in Yarloop and one fire truck was destroyed.

The loss of property in Yarloop is described as "significant" with the pub, bowling club and historic timber workshops destroyed.

"You've got seasoned firefighters who've been around for many years saying they've never seen anything like it," local politician Murray Cowper told the BBC.

"A big fireball came through and there was no way they were going to stop it.

The Western Australia bushfire comes less than a month after southern Victoria was struck by similar blazes.

More than 100 homes were destroyed by an outbreak on Christmas Day.

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Map

Australia's severe bushfires

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AP

Image caption

The Waroona fire burns alongside a road in Western Australia

What causes the fires?

Australia is particularly prone to bushfires as much of the country has both a hot, dry climate, and plenty of vegetation to burn. All it then takes to start a fire is ignition, and there can be as many as a thousand lightening strikes in a storm.

Is there any way to stop them happening?

Their impact can be reduced by preparation: authorities can clear vulnerable land in advance and build more fire-resistant settlements; individuals can prepare their own defences and escape plans.

Once they start, can they be put out?

Less fast-moving fires can be fought by "direct attack" – ground troops with hoses – but more dangerous situations have to be fought with strategic techniques like "back-burning" land ahead of an advancing fire, to starve it of fuel when it arrives.

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