Australian crews race to contain blazes as damage bill soars

Bolstered by cooler weather and desperately needed rain, exhausted firefighters in Australia raced to shore up defenses against deadly wildfires before the blazes flare again within days when scorching temperatures are expected to return. The Insurance Council of Australia said the estimated damage bill had doubled in two days, with insurance claims reaching 700 million Australian dollars ($485 million). The fires, fueled by drought and the country’s hottest and driest year on record, have been raging since September, months earlier than is typical for Australia’s annual wildfire season.

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