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Bushfires claim four lives as heatwave grips Australia

SYDNEY, Nov. 18 — Bushfires have claimed the lives of four people in Western Australia while the nation's authorities are on high alert as a scorching heatwave grips Australia.

Three major bushfires in the Western Australia's Esperance region, 700 kilometres south west of Perth, continue to burn after being sparked by lightning strikes on Sunday.

Authorities confirmed to Xinhua Wednesday that four people died overnight as two major fires, which have burnt 15,000 hectares and 300,000 hectares of land respectively, are currently out of control and threatening homes and lives.

Police are investigating their deaths, though it is believed they may have crashed their car while trying to flee the fires.

Meanwhile fire crews have contained another bush fire in Victoria's Gippsland region overnight that may have destroyed a house, however the damage could have been much worse.

"We have a report of one dwelling which we understand is a holiday residence that has been destroyed," Victoria's Country Fire Authority chief fire officer Joe Buffone told local media.

Australian authorities have been on high alert this week as a heatwave grips the country, with the weather bureau indicating the hottest part is expected late Thursday afternoon when half of Australia will be baking in 40 degree sun.

Climatologists have told Fairfax Media while "Godzilla" El Nino may play a part, the early season heatwave is consistent with climate change.

Authorities have instituted total fire bans across the nation. (PNA/Xinhua)

FPV/EBP

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