Image: Crowded Melbourne beach
Scott Barbour  /  Getty Images
With record temperatures in Melbourne, Australia, tens of thousands took to the beaches.
updated 1/30/2009 12:09:25 PM ET 2009-01-30T17:09:25

Southern Australia suffered Friday from a record-breaking heat wave that has threatened rural towns with wildfires and sent ambulance crews after heat-stressed patients.

Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city recorded its third consecutive day of temperatures above 109 F for the first time since 1855, when record-keeping began, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

The temperature in Melbourne topped 113 F on Friday ahead of a cooler change that might even bring some thunder showers, the bureau said.

Adelaide, the other major city on the south coast, is expected to match its longest heat wave in a century by Monday, with six consecutive days exceeding 104 F. The heat there buckled train and tram lines.

The high temperatures have afflicted tennis players and spectators alike this week at the Australian Open in Melbourne, where men's No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic retired ill from a game Tuesday after heat-related complaints.

The retractable roofs on Rod Laver Arena have been closed at least parts of the last three days.

Players complained that it felt like their feet were burning right through their shoes. A bunch of moths that have annoyed the players were basically sizzling and dying within seconds of landing on the broiling court surface.

Melbourne is the capital of Victoria state, where three rural towns were under threat from wildfires spreading quickly in the furnace-like conditions, Country Fire Authority deputy chief fire officer Geoff Conway said.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Richard Carlyon said firefighters will have to wait for rain to dampen the tinder-dry conditions.

State ambulance service chief Greg Sassella said more crews to help people affected by the heat were available on Friday, a day after 1,305 emergency cases were logged — more than double the normal load.

Ambulance services in Adelaide and Melbourne said they were not aware of any deaths caused by the heat.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Wildfires burn in Australia, Chile

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