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Australia’s record-breaking heatwave is continuing to fuel outbreaks of wildfires across scores of thousands of hectares in the south east of the country.

The Australian weather centre has had to add two colours to its temperature charts to represent values above 50 degrees celsius.

The country’s average maximum temperature has been above 39 degrees for seven days on the trot – the previous record was four consecutive days in 1973.

At Ballarat north west of Melbourne several homes were destroyed by a grass fire, including a 120-year-old historic homestead. Local media reported that rescuers spotted the fire as soon as it started but were unable to stop the house going up in flames.

Bushfires are not uncommon during the Australian summer, but authorities had warned that this season could be particularly extreme after several years of cooler conditions encouraged more forest growth that is fuelling the flames.

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