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SYDNEY - Homes were razed, cattle killed and large swathes of land burned on Sunday as bush and grass fires raged in the Australian state of Victoria on Sunday.
The grass fires, driven by dry, hot and windy weather, began on Saturday evening and burned out of control in Victoria"s southwest with emergency warnings issued across more than 45 towns, according to the Victoria government emergency website.
The weather was expected to continue to bring dangerous fire conditions until Sunday midafternoon, a spokeswoman for the State Control Centre said.
About 40,000 hectares have been damaged, and "hundreds of beef and dairy cattle will be lost as a result of these fires", Victoria"s Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley told reporters.
Up to 12 homes were "impacted", he added, with broadcaster ABC reporting they were "destroyed".
"We"ve got fires, major fires, running. They will get larger in size before we get control of these," he added, as the weather bureau predicted peak gusts of up to 110 kilometers per hour
"No significant injuries, no deaths (in) a very dynamic environment, I would say they (local communities) have done exceptionally well," he said.
Some roads have been closed with residents told to take shelter where they were as it was too dangerous to risk being caught by the flames in the open, or to navigate the roads in the thick smoke.
Six relief centers have been opened so far including the Ark Basketball Stadium and the Performing Arts Centre in Hamilton.
The Bureau of Meteorology warned of severe fire danger on Sunday for the southwest and central areas of Australia"s second-most populous state, with warm temperatures of 25 C together with dry and gusty winds creating weather that fans flames.
The warning was also issued for the Australian Capital Territory, home of Australia"s Parliament House and the eastern state of New South Wales where temperatures of up to 41 C have been forecast.
Bush fires are a common and deadly threat in Australia"s hot, dry summers, fueled by highly flammable eucalyptus bushland.
In January, hundreds of holidaymakers had to be rescued in a boat evacuation from the beaches of the Royal National Park south of Sydney, when they became trapped by bush fires.
The 2009 Black Saturday bush fires in Victoria killed 173 people and injured more than 400 others.
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