SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Hot, dry and swirling winds fanned more than 100 bush fires out of control, and smoke clouds towered over Australia's largest city on Wednesday as angry officials vowed to punish arsonists, many of them children.
At least half of the wildfires have been deliberately lit since the crisis started 10 days ago near Sydney, which has a population of 4 million people, police said.
Police said Wednesday they had discovered the remains of what might have been two homemade bombs used by arsonists to set the tinder-dry forests afire.
New South Wales state Premier Bob Carr vowed to punish those "driven by madness and wickedness" to start the blazes.
Thousands of residents fled their homes as separate fires joined and formed several massive fire fronts that totaled about 1,200 miles in length and came as close as 11 miles to downtown Sydney.
About 20,000 firefighters were stretched to their limit by the wild weather.
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