Eintime Conversion for education and research 04-24-2007 @ 21:09:39
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2 houses destroyed in Australian wildfires

Updated 12/10/2006 4:19 PM ET

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Two houses were destroyed by wildfires in drought-stricken southeast Australia on Sunday on the region's hottest December day in 53 years.

More than 3,500 firefighters battled blazes that have already incinerated more than 550,000 acres of alpine forest and farmland in Victoria state.

State Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon told reporters late Sunday the wildfire threat remained extreme.

"We may lose lives," she said.

The state Country Fire Authority said two houses had been lost in the villages of Rose River and Stonyford and more were threatened. No one was injured.

Smoke shrouded the state capital, Melbourne, Australia's second largest city, where the temperature reached 107.8 Fahrenheit. It matched the city's December record reached on Dec. 20, 1953.

Victoria is enduring its worst drought on record.

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