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Canadian plane crashes while water bombing bushfires in Australia

Canadian plane crashes while water bombing bushfires in Australia

Sydney - A water-bombing plane that was fighting fires in an alpine region of Australia crashed in New South Wales on Thursday, killing all three crew, officials confirmed.

A C-130 Hercules from Canada-based Coulson Aviation under contract to fight the fires in Australia crashed near Cooma, 116 kilometres south of Canberra, on Thursday afternoon, Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters.

Names will not be released until relatives are notified. The crew were well known to Australian firefighters and hearts go out to their loved ones, Fitzsimmons said.

"It is a confronting and sober reminder of the inherent risks in firefighting," he added.

There was no obvious reason for the accident at this stage, but the plane became a fireball when it hit the ground according to witnesses, Fitzsimmons said.

Earlier on Twitter the NSW Rural Fire Service said it was investigating reports of a serious incident involving an aircraft.

"Contact was lost with a large air tanker which was working in the Snowy Monaro area," the RFS said.

Meanwhile, temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius forced authorities to halt flights to and from the airport in Australia's capital city Canberra.

Residents in suburbs on the eastern outskirts of Canberra were told to seek shelter, with some told by emergency services to leave their homes immediately for the safety of a nearby sports field.

The blaze started Wednesday, but were fanned by Thursday's strong winds and high temperatures.

Airport officials said all flights in and out were cancelled while the airport fire brigades fought the fires, but the terminal itself had not been evacuated.

Canberra's Rural Fire Service said the fire posed a threat to all lives in its path and warned for many it was too late to leave the area and to seek shelter.

"Driving now is extremely dangerous and potentially deadly," the fire service said on its emergency website.

Another large fire near Adaminaby south of Canberra has flared out of control and a fire around Clyde Mountain on the already devastated New South Wales south coast is in danger of spreading.

Temperatures in Sydney hit 41 degrees Thursday and dust storms advancing from the inland could reach the coast within days, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Despite rains earlier this week, more than 60 fires are still burning across New South Wales, fire service spokesman Greg Allen told the national broadcaster ABC.

dpa