120 bushfires rage across northern Australia
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Sydney - A 21-year-old man has been killed while creating a firebreak and children had to be airlifted out by helicopter as firefighters battle 120 bushfires in Australia's tropical north.
Queensland police said the man was helping clear trees away from his family farm in front of an advancing fire at Rolleston, 741 kilometres north-west of Brisbane, late Friday when a tree fell on him.
Bushfires have been raging across central and northern Queensland for the past six days as temperatures soar up to ten degrees above average and a long drought has created a tinderbox.
Around 120 separate bushfires were raging in Queensland on Saturday, with little relief expected in the next few days as temperatures are expected to rise even higher.
The 21-year-old's death was the first in the battle against the fires, and several farm buildings have been lost. Six townships in central Queensland were told to evacuate during the past week, but the flames were beaten back.
On Friday evening 10 women and children had to rescued by helicopter from the mountaintop town of Eungella, 82 kilometres west of the Queensland coastal city of Mackay, as fires cut roads.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll told reporters Saturday the danger would persist for several more days.
"We've got a heatwave still with us for the next four days. We've got thunderstorms that interfere with how the fire spreads ... We have never seen this in our state before," she said, according to the news agency AAP.
The Bureau of Meteorology said temperatures have been up to ten degrees above average for the past week in northern Queensland, smashing records.
A new threat is developing off the coast where a low-pressure system is forming and could grow into a cyclone next week.dpa