updated 12/31/2007 2:22:46 AM ET 2007-12-31T07:22:46

Three people died in two trucks when they apparently were caught in a huge wildfire in western Australia's Outback hours after authorities reopened the highway running through the affected area, police said Monday.

Police found the bodies of two adults and a child overnight in the burnt wrecks on a highway in a national park 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of the Western Australia state capital Perth, state police spokesman Inspector George Putland said.

The trucks had been trying to travel 190 kilometers (120 miles) west from the town of Coolgardie to Southern Cross along the Great Eastern Highway -- the main route from Perth to the state's gold fields.

The highway was closed several times over the weekend because of a fire that started burning out of control on Friday, but police had temporarily reopened the road Sunday evening, Putland said.

The bodies of the three victims were found about six hours later.

10 tried journey
The two trucks were among 10 that attempted to make the journey after the highway was reopened.

Only one made it through to Southern Cross, its driver suffering burns to his hands, police spokesman Sgt. Graham Clifford said.

The remaining seven abandoned their trailers to make a speedy return to Coolgardie, Clifford said. The trailers were destroyed, he said.

The winds were strong and unpredictable on Sunday, said Southern Cross gas station manager Lee Lewis.

"The wind was crazy yesterday and last night," Lewis said. "It can quickly change direction on people."

The fire continued to burn out of control across sparsely populated countryside.

It had scorched more than 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) by Sunday as temperatures soared to 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) and winds reaching 45 kilometers per hour (28 miles per hour) fanned the flames, authorities said.

Police on Monday had not released the identities of those killed.

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