News: Australia – Three people are unaccounted for and about 95 houses in Yarloop, south of Perth, have been destroyed.

Wind gusts of up to 60km/h (37mph) overnight fanned the blaze, dubbed the Waroona fire, to heights of 50m.

The fire area is now 58,000 hectares and emergency warnings remain in place for Waroona, Harvey and surrounding areas including Preston Beach.

A local politician told the BBC the fire “could well be the end” of Yarloop.

Live updates: latest news on the bushfire

Handout photo shows the Waroona fire burning near YarloopImage copyright FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES
Image caption This handout photo from firefighters shows the Waroona fire burning near Yarloop
The historic Yarloop Workshops and Steam Museum has burned down in a bushfireImage copyright @discomamasita
Image captionImage from Twitter user Emma McIntosh shows the historic Yarloop Workshops and Steam Museum burning in the fire

Western Australia Fire Commissioner Wayne Gregson told a news conference that the fire in Yarloop was too intense to be tackled head-on.

He said four firefighters were injured battling the blaze and one fire truck was destroyed.

‘Could be the end’

A large thunderstorm hit the town of Pinjarra to the north of the fire zone at about 10:00 local time (02:00 GMT).

Reports said lightning struck an evacuation centre in the town, injuring a man in his 50s and cutting power.

The storm was understood to be heading towards the fire zone – a downpour of rain could ease conditions, but lightning strikes could also spark further fires.

Local politician Murray Cowper told the BBC that the loss of property was “significant”.

He said firefighters told him the town’s pub, bowling club and historic timber workshops had been destroyed.

“You’ve got seasoned firefighters who’ve been around for many years saying they’ve never seen anything like it,” Mr Cowper said.

“A big fireball came through and there was no way they were going to stop it.

“This could well be the end of the town.”

MapImage copyrightMap

Yarloop resident Alex Govanovich told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the fire was “crazy – one fireball after another” with “devastating” winds.

A Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) spokesman said conditions were “very tricky”, with wind gusts of up to 60km/h expected again on Friday.

Thunderstorms and sea breezes could add further unpredictability to the situation if they rapidly pushed the fire in new directions.

Thunderstorm systems could also be generated within the fire itself, the spokesman said.

What to do in a bushfire emergency

A supplied Waroona Police image of the bushfires in Western AustraliaImage copyrightAP
Image captionThe Waroona fire burns alongside a road in Western Australia
  • Leaving after a bushfire has arrived is extremely dangerous – but if you have no option, a ploughed paddock or a beach, dam or river are the best places. Do not shelter in water tanks
  • Radiant heat – generated by bushfires – can kill without flames but can be blocked by a solid object such as concrete walls or buildings
  • It is dangerous to be in a car as it provides little protection from radiant heat. Road conditions can be very dangerous with closures, smoke, fallen trees and embers. Park behind a solid structure to block heat and only get out of the car once the fire has passed.

For comprehensive advice see Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ list of bushfire tips.

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