Bushfires in Australia destroy more than 100 homes

Flames were sparked by a lightning strike earlier this month, with a huge area affected in the state of Victoria

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File photo. Image: Evan Collis / AP/Press Association Images

Firefighters in Australia are struggling to control bushfires that have destroyed more than 100 homes in the state of Victoria.

The fires, which have hit one of Australia's most important tourist areas, come as emergency services warn of dangerous conditions and more fires ahead in the New Year.

Since being sparked by a lightning strike on 19 December, they have already burned through at least 2,000 hectares.

On Friday, the fires gathered pace and more than 100 homes were destroyed - in the Wye River community and Separation Creek, both around 120km from Melbourne.

The houses are along the Great Ocean Road, a well-known tourist attraction that runs along the Victorian coastline, including views of the rock formations known as the 12 Apostles.

The road and nearby Great Otway National Park have been closed to the public due to the fires.

No deaths or injuries have been reported.

Residents of the tourist town of Lorne were among those told to leave their homes but, even after this order was lifted, authorities said the fires were still strong.

Rain overnight on Friday helped slow the fires but bad weather also hampered the fire-fighting effort by preventing the water-dropping aircraft from taking off.

Craig Lapsley, the state's emergency services commissioner, said: "This fire doesn't go away.

"This fire is a fire that will remain with potential to burn in January and February this year.

"We will be back into hot, windy weather in January without a doubt. Everything's available to burn."