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More homes burn in Australia

Australia lost still more homes to fire Sunday.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | January 26, 2003

Australia lost still more homes to fire Sunday, with at least 10 homes in mountain villages destroyed.

In a prepared statement, New South Wales Rural Fire Service commissioner Phil Koperberg said, "Almost all the fires in the southeast of the state have broken their containment lines or are in the process of doing so and are making quite troublesome runs."

Firefighters were concerned fires would merge and spread.

The town of Omeo was still at high risk. While last weekend fires blackened the Canberra area, this weekend fires were targeting areas southeast of Sydney. Mountain villages in northeast Victoria were on alert.

Meanwhile disaster officials were still assessing damages from earlier wildfires that burned more than 500 homes in the Canberra area.

The alpine villages of Bright, Beechworth, Mitta Mitta and Dartmouth remained on high alert.

The Salvation Army has been providing meals for evacuees and emergency disaster service personnel.

Salvation Army teams have also provided counseling and blankets to evacuees and are helping government agencies address survivorsí immediate and long-term needs.

Earlier this week firefighters have carved a 14-mile fire break near Canberra, home to some 300,000 people.

The St. Vincent De Paul Society was handling donations of clothing and food, and the Red Cross was also responding to people's needs.

Counselors from a group called Lifeline Canberra were available to talk to traumatized residents.

Public anger over what has become one of Australia's worst disasters in history grew as residents accused emergency managers of providing them with inadequate or conflicting information.

"Members of the public calling in to report fires are asked to

be sure that they are reporting an actual fire rather than just smoke," said one emergency bulletin.

Near Canberra, the suburbs of Duffy, Chapman, Holder and Rivett were hardest hit, with Duffy reporting the most property damage.

Australia is in the grip of a yearlong drought. Once fires start, they are fueled by oily eucalyptus leaves and parched underbrush.

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