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Evacuations, injuries, destruction as Yorke Peninsula bushfire rages

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Authorities say it is “remarkable” no one has died from an out-of-control bushfire burning on the lower Yorke Peninsula, with 11 properties destroyed or impacted and 33 people injured during “unprecedented” conditions.

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The blaze, which started near Yorketown, is burning uncontrolled in stubble towards the towns of Edithburgh and Coobowie, but the Country Fire Service says its rapid spread has been halted.

An emergency warning was issued for the fire yesterday morning following catastrophic fire conditions.

It has since burnt through about 4500 hectares and has been downgraded to a “watch and act” message.

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens this morning said the full extent of the damage was yet to be determined.

He said authorities were not aware of any loss of life.

“We do believe that there were 11 properties that have been affected, but the rapid damage assessment teams are moving into the fire ground now to make further assessments in relation to damage, particularly around Edithburg and also around Price,” he said.

“We did have concerns for one elderly gentleman who has been found safe and sound, and there are only minor reports in relation to injuries, with some 33 people being treated for eye-washing and minor burns and smoke inhalation.”

The CFS described yesterday’s catastrophic fire conditions as “unprecedented”, with temperatures hitting 44 degrees Celsius and strong winds fanning the blaze.

CFS chief Mark Jones said it was a “remarkable outcome” that no loss of life had been identified.

He said crews were currently holding the fire on the outskirts of Edithburgh.

“We were incredibly unlucky to endure those conditions, we were incredibly lucky to have the great emergency responders that the state has, and a public who are risk aware and took the necessary steps to make themselves safe,” he said.

The fire approaching Edithburgh in the early hours of this morning. Photo: Tim Natt

Premier Steven Marshall said a large arterial tanker had been dispatched from New South Wales to help contain the fire.

“We have every hope that we will be able to contain that fire this morning,” he said.

Authorities are warning people to take care around Edithburgh, Honiton, Troubridge Point, Wattle Point, Sultana Point, Hungry Point, Coobowie, Port Giles and Seven Roads this morning as smoke reduces road visibility and trees and branches risk falling.

Firefighters will remain in the area throughout the day to respond to any outbreaks, to secure the control line and to extinguish the fire.

Another fire is burning near Price, also on the Yorke Peninsula, but the threat for that fire was downgraded this morning.

At the height of the emergency, Yorke Peninsula Council Mayor Darren Braund said many residents had taken shelter overnight in the Edithburgh Town Hall but had been told to leave.

He said changing wind directions meant the fire jumped containment lines overnight.

Adelaide shrouded in smoke from the Yorke Peninsula fires. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

SA Health this morning issued a warning to people with pre-existing chest or heart conditions to stay indoors and avoid exercise as thick smoke covers much of the state.

Chief public health officer associate professor Nicola Spurrier said exposure to high levels of bushfire smoke could aggravate conditions such as asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases.

“We also know that high levels of smoke inhalation can be associated with an increased risk of cardiac events such as heart attacks,” she said.

“Symptoms caused by smoke inhalation can occur several days after exposure so it is important to be vigilant and to continue any previously prescribed treatment.”

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Paul Bierman told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that hazy conditions in Adelaide would ease this afternoon as south-westerly winds push smoke north.

“It probably won’t clear completely today but we will see a significant improvement in the afternoon and some sunshine in the afternoon,” he said.

Bierman said conditions in Edithburgh would also improve today, with the temperature set to reach 21 degrees Celsius.

CFS crews mop up a fire in a paddock in Angaston yesterday. Photo: Kelly Barnes / AAP

Approximately 65 fires burned across South Australia yesterday as the state battered strong winds and temperatures reached above 40 degrees.

“There was seven districts who had rated their fire danger at catastrophic yesterday – that was the highest in the history of the state,” Marshall said this morning.

“I would like to express my great sympathy to those who have suffered loss over the last 24 hours.

“There has been quite substantial loss affecting land, property, sheds and stock right across the state.

“I couldn’t be prouder as Premier than to say thank you very much to the great, capable CFS and emergency services workers that we have in South Australia, who have done an exceptional job.”

In Adelaide, the temperature reached 41.6 degrees Celsius in the late afternoon.

About 10,000 homes across the state had power cut in a measure designed to prevent potential ignition.

A cool change moved across the state early this morning dropping temperatures into the mid-20s.

A severe fire danger warning is still in place for the mid-north, Riverland and Mt Lofty Ranges districts.

For updates visit the CFS website www.cfs.sa.gov.au or phone the Bushfire Information Hotline on 1800 362 361.

– with AAP

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