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Residents flee, find shelter as bushfire nears South Australian town

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Residents of a small town in South Australia state were warned to seek shelter on Monday as firefighters were called in to battle a fast-moving grassfire. 

Locals in Lucindale, a community of around 550 people some 260 kilometres (162 miles) south east of Adelaide, were warned by the Country Fire Service (CFS) after the fire cut off roads they could use to evacuate. 

“You are now in danger. Take shelter in a solid building. Do not leave or enter this area in a vehicle or on foot,” the CFS said on Twitter. 

Most of the state was under a complete fire ban as temperatures soared towards 40 degrees (104F). 

“The fire started just after lunchtime today, fuelled by very strong winds, high temperatures and dry fuel loads, (which) meant the fire expanded very, very quickly,” South Australian CFS state duty commander Brenton Hastie said. 

The CFS estimated the fire had destroyed some 16,000 hectares and was likely to have hurt livestock and damaged farming infrastructure, Hastie told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 

Aerial footage showed farm outhouse buildings burning. 

Hot and windy weather has made for challenging firefighting conditions, but the fire was downgraded to watch and act from emergency late on Monday.

Meanwhile, in Western Australia, an emergency warning was issued for the suburb of Baldivis, outside Perth.

“You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive. There is a threat to lives and homes,” state emergency services said on Twitter. 

Australia has had some respite from bushfires this year given above-average rainfall associated with the La Niña weather pattern, following last summer’s severe bushfires which killed 33 people, razed an area the size of the United Kingdom and killed an estimated 3 billion animals. 

A blaze last month tore through World Heritage listed Fraser Island, part of the Great Barrier Reef.

(Reporting by Melanie Burton, editing by Ed Osmond)

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