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Rally Australia cancelled because of concern over wildfires



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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — The final round of the World Rally Championship has been cancelled because of concerns over destructive wildfires near the venue in the northeast of Australia's most populous state.

Rally Australia organizers initially proposed a revised, shortened route but took the decision Tuesday to cancel the race as New South Wales state braced for extreme fire danger.

Hundreds of schools were closed and residents urged to evacuate woodlands as 50 fires blazed across the state and the provincial government declared a weeklong state of emergency.

The WRC drivers' championship had already been decided Oct. 28 when Estonian driver Ott Tänak clinched the title in his Toyota by placing second in the Rally of Spain.

Rally Australia chairman Andrew Papadopoulos said the cancellation was the only course available, considering the safety of the more than 1,000 people involved as officials, competitors and in support roles for the event that was due to start Thursday.

"It's not appropriate to conduct the rally," he said. "Our thoughts are with the New South Wales community, especially the people who have lost loved ones, livelihoods and homes as a result of the fires."

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