MELBOURNE, Australia — Just days after residents of Perth, Australia’s fourth-largest city, were ordered to stay in because of the coronavirus, some were forced to flee their homes on Tuesday as a ferocious wildfire bore down on the city’s outskirts.
The blaze northeast of Perth, which began on Monday and was fueled by hot, dry and windy conditions, was out of control by about 2 a.m. on Tuesday, officials said. Residents described a confused scramble in the middle of the night, as they were unsure where they were supposed to go in light of the lockdown rules.
“We wish it would be either one or the other, not both,” Gemma Martin, a 33-year-old hospitality worker who fled with her three children, said of the fire and the lockdown.
By Tuesday afternoon, close to 20,000 acres had been razed and dozens of properties had been destroyed.
“It’s still a very, very active and very aggressive fire and very much out of control,” said Kevin Bailey, mayor of the City of Swan, a region within the Perth metropolitan area where the blaze had done the most damage.
The fire, reminiscent of the infernos that devoured Australia’s southeast coast more than a year ago, is another reminder that as climate change spurs more frequent and intense natural disasters, Australia and other countries are likely to find themselves dealing with intersecting catastrophes.
Perth and the surrounding area were put on a strict lockdown on Sunday because of a single coronavirus case, the first one outside quarantine in the state of Western Australia in almost 10 months. The wildfire started around noon the next day, sparked by a house fire, according to Mr. Bailey, the mayor.
Ms. Martin said that while the dual disasters were overwhelming, “if anything, last year taught us to be grateful for what we do have, and to be resilient.”
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