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Australia's wildfires continue to rage as temperatures ease

posted 9 Jan 2013, 05:41 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 9 Jan 2013, 05:41 ]

Cooler temperatures bring some relief to fire-ravaged Australia but emergency crews continue to battle bushfires across the southeast.

SUSSEX INLET, AUSTRALIA (JANUARY 9, 2012) (NINE NETWORK) -  Bushfires were still burning in Australia despite the cooler weather on Wednesday (January 9) but temperatures are set to soar again at the weekend.

Some blazes eased as favourable weather conditions spread along the southeast of the country with the Rural Fire Service downgrading the danger level from catastrophic to high.

Sussex Inlet on the south coast of Australia's New South Wales is the latest area to be affected by fires that have raged across parts of the country for six days.

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott joined crews near the area, battling the blaze. Abbot has been a volunteer firefighter for ten years in Sydney's northern suburbs.

Many motorists stranded on the Princess Highway in Sussex Inlet had to wait overnight in their cars for smoke to clear before they could safely drive home, local media said.

At Yass, 280 kilometres (175 miles) south west of Sydney, sheep farmer Catherine Firth assessed the damage caused to her property by fires that swept through on Tuesday (January 8).

"I'm pretty devastated, shocked. I don't know how to take it all in and what it means for the immediate future," said Firth

Broadcaster Nine Network reported that an estimated 10,000 sheep have been killed across New South Wales.

Australia, the world's driest inhabited continent, is particularly vulnerable to bushfires, fuelled each summer by extreme heat and by what scientists say is creeping climate shift blamed for hotter average temperatures globally.

Authorities warned earlier in the Australian summer that much of the country faced extreme fire conditions this season, after several years of cooler conditions that had aided forest growth, but also created tinder dry fire fuel conditions.