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Learning English - Words in the News
12 January, 2005 - Published 12:31 GMT
Australia bush fires
Bush fires in South Australia

Australia's worst bush fires for more than two decades have now claimed at least nine lives. Flames have torn through communities on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia but cooler conditions are beginning to help fire fighters. This report from Phil Mercer:

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Parts of south eastern Australia are among the most fire prone in the world. The ferocity of these outbreaks across the Eyre peninsula has taken the most hardened fire fighters by surprise. An area almost the size of Greater London has been destroyed.

Most of those who died are thought to have been incinerated in their cars as they tried to escape the flames. They've been fuelled by a cocktail of high summer temperatures, gusting winds and tinder dry conditions.

More fires have been reported across South Australia, including in hills near Adelaide. Others are burning in the neighbouring state of Victoria; further north in New South Wales emergency crews have also been placed on alert.

Phil Mercer, BBC News, Sydney

Listen to the words

more likely to suffer

great intensity

sudden occurrence

a piece of land almost completely surrounded by water but joined to a larger mass of land

most hardened
toughest, strongest

destroyed by burning

a cocktail
a mixture

gusting winds
sudden strong rushes of wind

tinder dry conditions
a 'tinder box' was used, instead of matches, to start fires many years ago; so this expression means that the countryside is so dry it will very easily catch on fire

placed on alert
ready to deal with danger

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