A major bushfire in western Australia has left three people unaccounted for and destroyed about 100 homes, emergency officials say.
The “catastrophic” bushfire tore through the small rural town of Yarloop, which is located 110 kilometers (68 miles) south of Perth in the state of Western Australia.
“I believe we’ve had what I would suggest [are] catastrophic losses within Yarloop,” Wayne Gregson, the state of Western Australia’s Fire and Emergency Services commissioner, told reporters Friday.
“It appears that we’ve lost around 95 houses, a number of structures within the town site including some of the historical buildings.”
Gregson also said up to four people sustained minor injuries and three have gone missing as a result of the blaze.
According to the commissioner, the blaze, which was fanned by strong winds, grew more than double in size in 24 hours and has now burned through 53,000 hectares (130,000 acres) across the region.
The out-of-control blaze has so far destroyed a third of the town of Yarloop, which has a population of 500-600 with an estimated 250 homes.
An aerial footage showed that the blaze reduced houses and structures to just their brick fireplaces. It also left blackened ground and the burnt-out shells of vehicles.
Hundreds of firefighters were battling to bring the blaze under control. The fire has prompted evacuations and an emergency warning for surrounding areas.
Meanwhile, the emergency services has warned about the threat that the fire poses to human lives and homes.
“You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive. There is a threat to lives and homes.”
Wildfires are common in Australia’s summer months between December and February.
In 2009, a firestorm dubbed “Black Saturday” killed over 170 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes in the state of Victoria alone.
Early in 2015, Waroona, a town located in the Peel region of Western Australia, witnessed a large bushfire sparked by lightning, and the blaze destroyed one home and several sheds, cars and equipment.