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Seven Morning News -

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(generated from captions) This program is captioned live. This morning, on alert - firefighters in New South Wales and
Victoria facing another heatwave. Arsonists warned they will be caught
after more deliberately lit fires. And gaining strength -
Cyclone Narelle bears down on WA. VOICEOVER: This is Seven News,
morning edition, with Talitha Cummins. Good morning. There's no relief in sight
for exhausted firefighters across the country's south-east as extreme conditions
return to the region. A total fire ban is in place for New South Wales, Victoria
and the ACT ahead of today's high temperatures
and strong winds. First to New South Wales and reporter Robert Ovadia is at
Rural Fire Service Headquarters. Hello, Rob. Firefighters are prepared
for another brutal day? ,Yes, they expect it could well be brutal. Good morning. There are still 104 fires burning throughout the state of New South Wales. 1,000 firefighters out in the field and 14 of those 104 remain uncontained. The good news is a couple of days ago, there were 40 fires uncontained. But the weather has been favourable for the last couple of days allowing firefighters to get on top of the blazes. The bad news is we are seeing conditions comparable as we saw conditions described as catastrophic but the winds are not as strong. Joining me is deputy commissioner Rob Rogers. Another brutal day?Yes, we have already got the bad fire conditions, a number of fires still burning. Even though the 110 are contained, it wouldn't take much for much 110 are contained, it wouldn't take much for them troobreak out. We have got 14 fires that are not contained. We have the potential for new fires and warmer conditions tomorrow. We are in for a tough couple of days. Potential spontaneous fires today. Any property under threat?Any could. The Goulburn, Milwarre fire, we had indications it could be a problem later today. We will watch it closely. Any fires getting warm, we don't need the strong winds. It is so dry out there and so warm, all it takes is a fire to be burning and it will become very defendant very fast.I notice from an update you put out recently, you had 5 million hits on your web site. That must be encouraging for people seeking information?And the down load of the firesnearme apwas one of the top 10 down loads in the country. Thanks to the media getting the message out, people are reacting and taking action. They are downloading bushfire survival plans and becoming more informed. We have got to maintain that focus over the next couple of days because we are not out of the woods yet.Thank you. We are expecting temperatures of the high 30s and up to the high 40s in places. So firefighters are bracing for the worst and hoping for the best.Thank you.

Police are warning arsonists
they will be caught after several deliberately lit fires
in Sydney last night. Police were called to a
small grassfire in Macquarie Fields just before 11:00. Further up the road, a number of other fires were burning
outside the front fences of homes. I think one fire deliberately lit
is one too many, obviously, and I cannot condemn
that strongly enough. It's terrible,

and people need to really think about the consequences
of their actions. Two teenage boys were arrested
near the scene. They've been charged
with breaching bail. Anyone who saw the fire
should call Crime Stoppers. A deliberately lit fire has damaged
a hotel in central Sydney. Paul Kadak is at
the Lansdowne Hotel. Good morning, Paul.
Everyone managed to escape in time?

Talitha, they did. But there were concerns for some time that not everyone had been accounted for. But they did end up escaping. The building's automatic fire alarm was triggered at 7:45 bringing fire crews racing to the central Sydney location, with fears it would engulf the building and spread to other buildings. There was a mix of hotel lodgers and staff inside. As I say, they managed to get out as firefighters got in. Seven News can give you an exclusive look at the fire damage. The accommodation units, the halls would have been filling with thick black smoke as firefighters went in with thermal imaging apparatus and breathing apparatus. Thankfully, they got out. The fire area is now a crime scene. The police believe it was deliberately lit and they are investigating it further. Firefighters say it started on the hotel's balcony.

The third level is a balcony area. There was some outdoor furniture
on that level and it spread to rooms and severely damaged two
accommodation rooms of the premises. By the time I got there, it had spread across to
the furniture and the balcony. So I started running up and down
the corridor, banging on doors to get people out. It's OK. All good.
Still ticking. Lost everything though. I just got my Australian passport
yesterday, so that's gone, but it's only stuff.

Thankfully, everyone did escape. Police and fire authorities will continue their investigation into who lit it and how. A busy day for New South Wales fire and rescue. They have deployed 200 crews and personnel across the state in anticipation of hot conditions. Thank you, very luckly people there.

Victorian authorities have recalled
crews and equipment from interstate in preparation for today's
severe fire conditions. Temperatures up to 42 degrees
are expected in some areas with hot, dry winds. Firefighters managed to contain
several fires last night but aren't taking any chances today. We've got a state -
the whole of the state total fire ban, extreme fire danger
in the Wimmera and central parts and severe in the others so no matter where in Victoria
today, it's a fire day
and people should be very vigilant, be focused on what it's all about and prepare themselves. Nine homes were destroyed by a fire
near Ballarat on Tuesday night. Hundreds of residents in the bushfire-ravaged town
of Dunalley in Tasmania are finally returning home today. Authorities have reopened
the Arthur Highway to the small fishing village
where 90 homes were destroyed. Amanda Abate is at Forcett
in Tasmania. Good morning, Amanda. People will be able
to inspect the damage today?

That's right, Talitha. Police have only just reopened the Arthur highway, only to residents and business owners. They are the only people they are allowing through the road block behind me. As you can imagine, it is still very dangerous, there are power lines and asbets is a great threat there. Blease have advised the residents when they go there they need to wear protective clothing and masks because of the abtess threat. The other thing, it is going to be a very distressing and emotional journey home so police have advised people not to bring their children and leave them behind. They hope to reopen the highway to the general public tomorrow.The threat isn't over yet? It's not. But rain overnight has certainly helped crews on the ground to back-burn and strengthen the containment lines. They had 5mm in Dunalley, so not enough to extinguish the blaze but it was certainly a great relief. It has allowed fire crews to try to get ahead of the blaze with hotter temperatures and strong winds forecast for this afternoon. You can probably see they have started behind me and we are expecting hotter conditions over the next couple of days.Thank you.

To breaking news now a light plane has crashed
in northern Tasmania. One man has died in the accident near York Town,
north of Beaconsfield.

We'll bring more to you shortly.

Tropical Cyclone Narelle
has intensified as it continues to move towards
WA's north-west. There's a cyclone warning in place
for several communities, including Exmouth. Seven's Rob Scott is there.

Well, Talitha, the category three system was upgraded to a category four system overnight. Cyclone Narelle is around 500 kilometres north of Exmouth but tracking rapidly south-west towards the coast. The winds are gusting in the centre at 250km/h. The bureau is predicting the winds will begin to be felt this afternoon and intensify this afternoon in the Pilbara. Most regions are on blue alert, which is basically a warning to be ready for the advancing front. Those preparations are well under way with residents planning.There is a cyclone warning from Whim Creek to Coral Bay with winds up to 100km/h and tomorrow, the winds gusted could gust to 130km/h.The same for boat owners here at the marina, checking moorings and making sure no lose items are on desk to be blown around. Workers have been evacuated from oil rigs off the coast. Looking at the photographs, it is not surprising. These were taken by a tug-boat operator and show a massive storm bearing down on the coast, but this is on Wednesday, well before the cyclone was near the oil fields. It is a watching brief here for residents. The SES are prepared for anything. So we will wait and see what the cyclone brings.Thank you.

Two Melbourne police officers
have been injured after a drunk driver
smashed into their vehicle. Michael Scanlan is at the scene
of the accident. Good morning, Michael. The officers were on their way
to another incident?

Good morning, Talitha. Yes, that's right. Thaid had been called to a car that had car that had plowed through a school fence, about a tenet drive from where we are. They had reports the drive had fled the scene. They were heading there to check it out. They were heading through this intersection, they got the green light, a driver came through the red light, plowed into their right and pushed them into a shup front. Subsequent testing of the 74-year-old driver revealed he had been drinking. The two officers in the car, one was injured and taken to hospital for treatment to a head to hospital for treatment to a injury. Let's listen to what police said on the scene last night.

They looked both ways, they appeared to have the
green light and went straight ahead and the car came from
another direction and hit them. And the accident scene
is notorious for crashes?

Yes, in the short time we've been here, we have seen a lot of locals walking long here and everyone had something to say about the intersection. Every time the boom gates go down, the intersection goes into lock down. It increases impatients for drivers, they are speeding through and running red lights and it is causing a lot of problems for the area. Just lastly, the shop front that was damaged, did receive a significant bit of damage to the glass but they should be up and running in the next few days. Good to hear. Thank you.

Next in Seven News - New Zealand
facing its own bushfire crisis. And incredible video
of an unwelcome stowaway

A boat has been extensively damaged
in a fire on the Gold Coast. The fibreglass vessel was moored
outside a house in Runaway Bay when it caught alight
at around 8:30. Several firefighters were needed
to bring it under control with residents watching on. No-one was onboard at the time. Scientific officers
will inspect the boat today to determine how the fire started. New Zealand's been dealing
with their own bushfire emergency with up to four homes lost
in Christchurch. Yesterday's scrub fires also gutted
dozens of sheds and farm buildings. Some residents lost everything, unable to get insurance
following the 2011 earthquake. Got nothing at all. I got my jacket, something, pretty much all that's left
of our house. Firefighters are bracing themselves for at least two more days
of hot, dry weather. Three Australian actors are in the running
for Hollywood's greatest honour - an Academy Award. US bureau chief Mike Amor
joins me now from LA. Good morning, Mike. There were a few surprises in this
morning's nominees announcement?

Yes, Talitha, always a few surprises. But I guess one of the pleasant surprises was Jacki Weaver. Three years ago she wasn't known here in Hollywood but now the 65-year-old has two nominations, this time for best supporting actress in the 'Silver Linings Playbook'. No surprise when Hugh Jackman was nominated for best actor. Probably favourite but faces Daniel Day-Lewis. And Naomi Watts for her role in impossible rr.I mean, completely thrilled. It was quite a surprise. I was quite certain it wasn't going to happen. I said I wasn't going to watch the TV, I wasn't sleeping anyway, so I thought, " thought, "I'll watch it." thought, "I'll watch it.".She was upset her best friend Nicole Kidman missed out. She and Keith urban's names weren't read out. We saw the oldest and the youngest, 85-year-old Emanuel Riva rr and 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis for beast of the southern wild rr. Listen.Mom said I'm nominated, I'm nominated. I saw my name just rolling down.It is a name that is not going to disappear for a while. Lynneen rr rr -- 'Lincoln' has 12 nominations, 'Life of

A real-life snake on a plane
has astonished Qantas passengers travelling from Cairns
to Papua New Guinea. A woman spotted it from her
window seat and alerted cabin crew but no-one believed her
until they saw it for themselves. Even the plane's two pilots
took turns to visit the back of the plane
and have a look. Experts say it was a scrub python - the longest snake species
in Australia. Unfortunately, it didn't survive. Time to check the financial markets.

Next in Seven News - Australia's new-look one-day side prepares to do battle
with Sri Lanka. And the superstars of tennis on hand
for the Australian Open draw. We'll tell you who fared
the best and worst, next.

Lleyton Hewitt has been handed
a tough assignment for Round 1 of the Australian Open. Reigning champions Novak Djokovic
and Victoria Azarenka were on hand for today's draw, which saw Hewitt paired
with eighth seed Janko Tipsarevich. Bernard Tomic fared much better, drawing world number 72
Leonardo Mayer.

He's definitely an, Australia's biggest biggest tennis hope. Sure the Australian tennis public has something to cheer for.

Ninth seed Samantha Stosur
will get a great chance to snap her 5-match losing streak
on home soil against world number 84
Kai-Chen Chang. Teenage wildcard Ashleigh Barty
drew 15th seed Dominika Cibulkova. Tomic is one win away from
his first ATP Tour singles final after battling back from a set down to defeat reigning champion
Jarkko Nieminen at the Apia International Sydney. With the match delicately balanced
in the second set, a delay to remove a cockroach
from the court appeared to work in Tomic's favour. The 20-year-old went on
to defeat the Finn in three sets, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, setting up a semifinal clash
with Italian Andreas Seppi. To get the chance
to play my first tour event final

And to do it in Australia is going to be unbelievable.

Tomic defeated Seppi
at the Hopman Cup last week. Coverage from the Kooyong Classic
is live now over on 7TWO. Tomic's clash with Seppi for a spot in the
Apia International Sydney decider headlines this afternoon's action. George Bailey will captain
an Australia side containing three debutants in today's one-day series opener
against Sri Lanka in Melbourne. Hard-hitting opener Aaron Finch
is part of an all-new top three, along with Phil Hughes
and Usman Khawaja. Bailey says
it's a golden opportunity for the new boys to cement
their place in the team. There's a lot of one-day cricket, obviously some big test tours
coming up as well going forward and there's some holes that have
been left in that Australian side. A modest crowd of around 30,000
is expected at the MCG. The Perth Scorchers have
earned themselves a home semifinal in the Big Bash League by demolishing the Strikers
by 98 runs at Adelaide Oval last night. Shaun Marsh got on top
of test spinner Nathan Lyon early and anchored Perth's innings
with 79 from 60 balls. The 'Wild Thing' Shaun Tait
lived up to his nickname as the Scorchers blasted their way
to 4/189, the highest score of the season. COMMENTATOR: It's a six! What an incredible way to finish and what an incredible shot
from Marcus North. The Strikers were dismissed
for a paltry 91 in reply, costing themselves a spot
in the finals. Daniel Geale says Anthony Mundine's constant
trash talk is a sign of weakness ahead of their blockbuster rematch
in Sydney. The world middleweight champion
will be fighting to defend his family's honour. Mundine sparked outrage by attacking
Geale's Aboriginal heritage when the fight was announced
last year. He got a white woman,
he got white kids. You know, I keep it real
all day, every day. I see it as a sign of weakness -
he's trying to intimidate. The highly-anticipated rematch
takes place on January 30. Cameron Meyer's dreaming
of making his Tour de France debut after claiming a third
national road cycling title. Meyer was planning
to use the 40-lap criterium to prepare for this weekend's
elite road race. But when the 24-year-old's
bold early breakaway was ignored, he was able to defy
the chasing pack. No-one wanted to come with me
so I just kept going and by the end of the race,
I stayed away so I'm really happy. Kimberly Wells
took out the women's race. Stay with me here
on Seven's Morning News. I'll be back with all the
weather details after this break.

Checking today's weather now. Category 4 Cyclone Narelle is causing squally rain
along WA's north-west coast. A trough stretching from the Top End
into Queensland is triggering a few storms. Around the country -

will top 37 degrees before a cool change.

And that's Seven News to now. I'm Talitha Cummins.
Thanks for your company. See you soon. Supertext captions
by Red Bee Media -