Elderly Australian couple perish in first bushfire season deaths

SYDNEY (AFP) – An elderly couple have become the first victims of bushfires which have been ravaging drought-stricken areas of eastern Australia, police said yesterday.

The bodies of the 77-year-old man and 68-year-old woman were found in the charred remains of their home in rural New South Wales state, a police spokesman said.

A series of fires have destroyed at least 29 homes and numerous other buildings in the past week in northern New South Wales.

The worst-hit town of Rappville lost around 15 of its 200 homes when a large bushfire tore through the area earlier this week, authorities said.

Police said the Rappville fire may have been caused by arson, though investigations were continuing. The fire which killed the couple in an area known as Long Gully was not suspicious.

The Long Gully fire began October 4, police said, and appeared to have destroyed the couple’s home on Tuesday. Their bodies were found yesterday morning.