ADELAIDE, Australia: Firefighters contained a large wildfire Thursday that had caused at least two deaths, 13 injuries and destroyed at least 16 homes near the southern Australian city of Adelaide, officials said.
Two bodies of a 56-year-old woman and a 69-year-old man were recovered on Wednesday, South Australia state Premier Jay Weatherill said. Their names were not released.
At least two firefighters were among the 13 people hospitalized on Wednesday by the fast-moving blaze that had scorched 85,000 hectares (210,000 acres) of farm and woodland and threatened several towns near Adelaide, the state’s capital and largest city, Weatherill said.
Five of the injured were in critical or serious conditions with burns.
“Their condition is being closely monitored, but we do hold grave concerns,” Weatherill told reporters.
Country Fire Service director Brenton Eden said the fire was no longer out of control and had been contained within a 210-kilometer (130-mile) perimeter since Wednesday night.
Eden said the fire on Wednesday had been the fastest moving he had seen in more than a decade, fanned by wind gusts of up to 90 kph (56 mph).
“Everyone in South Australia yesterday who was either trying to combat that fire or who lived in that area was totally stunned by the speed of that fire,” Eden told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.
But winds and temperatures were milder on Thursday. Officials expect up to 400 firefighters would continue to extinguish the fire for two or three days.
The fire started Wednesday on farmland near the village of Pinery where the dead man lived, Eden said. The cause of the fire has not been determined.
About 2,500 residents were evacuated from the fire zone. Teams used chainsaws to remove fallen trees and reopen roads into burnt-out areas on Thursday so that razed homes could be searched for bodies and damage could be assessed, Eden said.
There were extensive livestock losses including sheep, pigs and chickens, he said.
Australia’s southern hemisphere summer wildfire season has made an early and lethal start after much of the country recorded a hot and dry spring.
Wildfires killed four people near the southwest town of Esperance two weeks ago.
Destructive wildfires are common across much of Australia during the summer. In 2009, wildfires killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes in Victoria state.