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The News - 17 February 1983
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SA’s agony: 22 dead

The News - 17 February 1983

Adelaide; News Limited

Newspaper, 410 x 300 mm

Location : State Library of South Australia - view catalogue entry

This item is reproduced courtesy of Advertiser Newspapers Ltd. It may be printed or saved for personal research or study.

Use for any other purpose requires written permission from Advertiser Newspapers Ltd and the State Library of South Australia. Further information may be found at the State Library's Permission to publish page.

The Ash Wednesday bushfires hit South Australia and Victoria on 16 February 1983. The total death toll was 75 (47 in Victoria, 28 in South Australia), around 2 500 homes were destroyed and hundreds thousands of livestock lost. Both states declared a state of disaster.

A period of drought in 1982 in the eastern areas of Australia had left tinder dry vegetation that was quickly incinerated by the fires, some of which had been started by arsonists. A cold front over the Great Australian Bight caused hot air from central Australia to be drawn southwards creating a hot northerly wind over the south-eastern states. Temperatures of over 40 °C (the peak recorded temperature in South Australia was 43 °C), low humidity and these gusty conditions meant that the fires were difficult to get under control.

The worst affected areas were the Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia and the Macedon area and Dandenong Ranges of Victoria. Around Mount Gambier, fire burnt grassland at an average speed of 17 kilometres an hour. This fire, known as the Clay Wells fire, was the biggest single fire and burnt more than 120,000 hectares. The total cost of loss or damage to private property in South Australia was estimated at over $200 million.

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