Crews battle Western Australia bushfire

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Media captionThe bushfire has spread quickly, fanned by strong winds

A bushfire that burned out of control has destroyed or damaged more than 20 homes in Western Australia.

The fire, which started as a controlled burn lit by firefighters, swept through the town of Prevelly, about 280 km (175 miles) south of Perth.

The original burn was lit in a national park near the Margaret River wine region but spread as winds picked up.

Officials said the fire was now mostly contained but there were warnings of more high winds to come in the region.

More than 100 firefighters assisted by aerial water bombers were working to fully contain the blaze before forecast winds of 50km/h (38 mph) arrived later on Thursday.

Several hundred people in the area were forced to spend Wednesday night in an evacuation shelter or a nearby beach after the fire hit Prevelly.

The fire burned through about 1,800 hectares of forest and farms after it spread from the original burn in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.

Aerial pictures of the area showed a number of houses completely destroyed.

Schools and roads in the area have been closed.

Fire service officials in Western Australia have warned that the state is facing one of its most dangerous bushfire seasons in recent history.

Fires in February this year in the outskirts of Perth destroyed more than 60 homes.

Some 173 people were killed when fires tore across Victoria state, in south-eastern Australia, in February 2009.

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