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Australian firefighters are racing to contain a major bushfire before soaring temperatures and high winds fuel the blaze.

More than 30 homes are already feared destroyed in the hills behind South Australia’s city of Adelaide.

More than 500 firefighters are tackling the fires, which have been burning since January 2.

Officials say the blaze is the worst in the area since the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983, which left 75 dead.

Temperatures are forecast to hit 34C in Adelaide on January 5 before rising to as high as 38C on January 6 and 7, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.

However, the region is not yet out of danger, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said.

“We’re really racing against time to try to make sure that we get as much of this contained before the hotter weather and the stronger winds are expected later in the week,” he told a press conference.

“The objective of this is obviously to ensure that the fire does not spread under the worsening conditions, but also to open up as many areas as possible,” Jay Weatherill said.

He said South Australians should prepare for more severe bushfires.South Australia bushfires 2015

A number of towns remained at risk from uncontrolled fire burning in scrub and grass, and some roads into the fire zone remained closed, said the state’s Country Fire Service (CFS).

Chief Officer for the CFS, Greg Nettleton, told local media the number one priority for firefighters was to prepare for possible catastrophic weather conditions expected to hit on Wednesday.

“The winds will swing around to the north. At the moment I think they’re predicting somewhere like about 35kph [22mph],” said Greg Nettleton.

“That’s enough given the dryness of the country for the fire to spread, so our number one priority is to secure the outer perimeter of that large fire so it doesn’t impact on further communities.”


An estimated 12,500 hectares of land have been burnt since January 2, according to local media, and firefighters from South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales are battling the fires’ 150 miles perimeter.

Large air tankers are dumping water on the fire front and back-burning operations are underway, where new fires are started in order to burn in the opposite direction to the line of advancing fire.

Of the estimated 1100 properties in the Adelaide Hills, 12 are confirmed destroyed with another 20 believed to have been burnt down. Twenty-two people, mostly firefighters, are reported to have suffered minor injuries.

The Insurance Council of Australia has declared the blaze a “catastrophe”, which means insurers can escalate their response, and claims arising from the bushfires should be given priority by insurers.

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The recent Australian bushfires have destroyed more than 30 homes near Adelaide as crews continue to battle out-of-control blazes.

More than 800 firefighters are tackling the blazes, which have been burning for several days in the hills around the city of Adelaide.

Officials say the fires are the worst in the area since the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983, which left 75 dead.

Cooler weather may help firefighters tame the flames, which have been fanned by high winds and temperatures.

But South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said the situation remained critical.

He said 12 homes had been confirmed destroyed in the Adelaide Hills with another 20 also feared lost.South Australia bushfires 2015

Twenty-two people, mostly firefighters, are said to have suffered minor injuries.

More than 27,000 acres of land has been burned, according to reports.

People are being encouraged not to take any risks, and leave if their houses are in danger.

“Right at this moment, residents in the Adelaide Hills are being confronted by a fire which hasn’t been seen in the hills since the 1983 bushfires of Ash Wednesday,” South Australia fire chief Greg Nettleton said on Saturday.

The 1983 fires left 75 people dead and caused devastation across parts of Victoria and South Australia.

Australia faces such fires every year but environmentalists say global warning is making their occurrence more frequent.

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Pope Benedict XVI has held his last Mass as Pope in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome following the shocking announcement of his resignation.

The pontiff presided over an Ash Wednesday ceremony marking the start of the Roman Catholic Church’s season of Lent.

It came two days after the surprise announcement that Pope Benedict XVI, 85, was to retire at the end of the month.

In his homily, Pope Benedict implicitly criticized recent infighting among clerics inside the Vatican.

He said the face of the Church had been marred by divisions and rivalry among the clergy.

Looking tired, the pontiff anointed the foreheads of the faithful with ashes in a service attended by cardinals, bishops, monks, friars and pilgrims.

The season of Lent is marked by fasting and acts of penitence for past sins, with worshippers marking a cross on their foreheads with wood ash to symbolize human mortality.

It is the most solemn season in the Church calendar that ends with Holy Week and Easter Sunday.

Earlier in the day, Pope Benedict held his last but one general audience inside the Vatican, his first public appearance since he stunned the Church and wider world by saying he would retire at the end of the month.

He said he had made his decision only after long reflection.

“I am conscious of the gravity of my action,” he said, receiving a standing ovation from 8,000 pilgrims from around the world gathered in the Vatican’s main audience hall.

“Thank you for the love and prayer with which you have accompanied me… Keep praying for me, for the Church and for the future pope,” he said.

Pope Benedict XVI has held his last Mass as Pope in St Peter's Basilica in Rome following the shocking announcement of his resignation

Pope Benedict XVI has held his last Mass as Pope in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome following the shocking announcement of his resignation

Next week Pope Benedict will carry out no public engagements. He will enter a spiritual retreat and pray inside the Vatican.

The pontiff had originally been scheduled to celebrate Ash Wednesday at the small Sant’ Anselmo church, then lead a procession to Santa Sabina Basilica on Rome’s Aventine Hill.

But the Mass was relocated to St Peter’s to accommodate the crowds, the Vatican said. The change also saved the Pope the effort of the procession.

The pontiff will continue with his usual agenda until the day he officially retires at the end of February, Vatican officials say.

By the end of Lent, in six weeks’ time, there is expected to be a new pope.

Pope Benedict is anxious to ensure a smooth transition of power to his successor, and does not want to go down in history as a pope who abandoned his ministry without sufficient cause.

The pontiff’s daily diary until his departure from the Vatican at the end of the month is already full.

The Vatican holds a Lenten retreat from 17 to 23 February. The Pope will hold one more Wednesday audience on February 27, again in St Peter’s Square.

On February 28, Pope Benedict will fly off to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo, where he will stay while Church leaders go through the complicated ritual of choosing a successor.

The secret process of selecting a new pope is known as a Conclave, governed by rules which have evolved over centuries.

The behind-the-scenes battle for the succession has already begun.

At 78, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was one of the oldest popes in history at his election.

He took the helm as one of the fiercest storms the Catholic Church has faced in decades – the scandal of child sex abuse by priests – was breaking.

The pontiff said in his resignation statement on Monday: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

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Pope Benedict XVI made his first public appearance since announcing his resignation and thanked the public for their “love and prayers”.

The Pope was cheered by crowds as he entered and began speaking, at a weekly audience in a hall at the Vatican.

Pope Benedict said he resigned because he was aware of his own diminishing spiritual and physical strength.

Later he will hold what is expected to be his last public Mass, for Ash Wednesday, in St Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Benedict cited his advanced age and failing strength as reasons for stepping down at the end of February.

The 85-year-old pontiff will continue with his diary as usual until the day he officially retires, Vatican officials say.

By the end of Lent, in six weeks’ time, there is expected to be a new Pope.

The Pope is holding his weekly general audience at its traditional venue, the audience hall in the Vatican.

However, the afternoon Mass has been relocated.

The pontiff had been scheduled to celebrate Ash Wednesday at the small Sant’ Anselmo church, then lead a procession to Santa Sabina Basilica on Rome’s Aventine Hill.

Pope Benedict XVI was cheered by crowds as he made his first public appearance since resignation announcement at a weekly audience

Pope Benedict XVI was cheered by crowds as he made his first public appearance since resignation announcement at a weekly audience

The Vatican said the change to St Peter’s was to accommodate the crowds, but it will also save the Pope the effort of the procession.

“It will be an important concelebration, and the last led by the Holy Father in St Peter’s,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

Pope Benedict XVI will anoint the foreheads of the faithful with ashes, in a service attended by cardinals, bishops, monks, friars and pilgrims.

Ash Wednesday begins Lenten season, a period of penitence before Easter – celebrated this year by western Christians at the end of March and beginning of April.

The Vatican holds a Lenten retreat from 17 to 24 February. The Pope will hold one more Wednesday audience on February 27, again in St Peter’s Square.

At 78, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was one of the oldest popes in history at his election.

He took the helm as one of the fiercest storms the Catholic Church has faced in decades – the scandal of child sex abuse by priests – was breaking.

Pope Benedict XVI said in his Monday’s statement: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

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