Australia

Threat from deadly bushfire eases in Western Australia

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Media captionThe bushfire has been declared a natural disaster

A massive bushfire in Western Australia that killed two people continues to burn, but milder conditions are helping firefighters bring it under control.

The fire engulfed the entire town of Yarloop near Perth last week, destroying at least 128 homes.

Police say the bodies of two men in their 70s have been discovered in the debris of burnt-out houses.

More favourable conditions on Sunday allowed firefighters to set up containment lines.

The fire perimeter is currently around 232km (144 miles), the Department of Fire & Emergency Service (DFES) said.

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The alert for the region has been downgraded to "watch and act", with residents of Harvey and Waroona being told they can return to their homes.

"It's not under control yet but we are very optimistic about the next 24 hours as well," Western Australia's Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said.

The fire was sparked by a lightning strike on Wednesday. Some 67,000 hectares (166,000 acres) of land has been destroyed.

Authorities' handling of the fire has come under heavy criticism from residents, who have complained of a lack of communication and emergency warnings, and a lack of water.

But officials have pointed out that many of the small towns affected by the fire had their own water grids which were knocked out when the fire cut power.

Western Australia fire commissioner Wayne Gregson told reporters: "There will be plenty of people who will come out with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. There'll be no shortage of armchair generals to tell you what you should have, could have or might have done."

He said they had given warnings up to two days before the fire, and had told residents not to rely on the power or water mains supplies to defend their homes.

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