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Lightning Blamed for Massive Australia Wildfire

Lightning strikes late Wednesday started a huge wildfire in western Australia, threatening lives and properties south of Perth, local media and fire officials said Thursday.

An emergency warning was issued for Preston Beach and Waroona towns, about 110 kilometers (68 miles) south of Perth, Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) officials said.

Residents were told to evacuate if they were able to, and those who did not leave were told to seek shelter, local media reported Thursday. About 100 residents who had been evacuated were taken to an evacuation center in Pinjarra town.

An evacuation order was also given to residents of the town of Harvey, 140 kilometers south of Perth, on Thursday after a change in the wind sent flames toward the town, local media reported.

"The wind was horrific, God knows how strong it was, but the dust was whipping up," Waroona Agricultural Society president Eric Walmsley said.

The DFES said more than 11,000 hectares of land had been burned.