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Australia in a state of emergency

THE Australian Capital Territory declared a state of emergency today as huge bushfires raged southwards.

It is the first fire emergency for the Canberra area since 2003 when wildfires killed four people and destroyed almost 500 homes in a single day.

The new threat is due to a blaze that has worked its way through more than 53,000 acres after it was sparked by heat from a military helicopter’s landing-light on Monday, the emergency services said.

Residents in the suburbs and surrounding villages were advised to prepare either  to protect their homes or evacuate.

The small territory, located between Sydney and Melbourne, has about 400,000 residents.

Roads were blocked to the village of Tharwa late on Friday because the fire posed too much danger for residents to evacuate or return to their homes.

Officials said the state of emergency, which gives extra power and resources to fire authorities, would be in place for “as long as Canberra is at risk.”

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