Australian wildlife officials warn that a serious drought is driving tens of thousands of snakes into urban areas.

Many venomous reptiles are moving into residential and business areas in search of moisture.

Last week a 16-year-old boy in Sydney died from a bite by an Eastern Brown, one of the world's deadliest snakes.

Many parts of Australia have been hard-hit by the drought, described as the worst for more than 100 years.

Experts have warned that an army of snakes is on the move, looking for water. Driven by extreme thirst they have been discovered in gardens, bedrooms and even Australian shopping centres.

Hospitals have reported a rising number of snakebites. Toxicologists have said there have been 60 serious cases since September.

Snakes killed

The drought is making snakes far more active - three people have died in Australia in recent weeks after being bitten.

A 16-year-old schoolboy from Sydney had a heart attack, and died a short time later, after being attacked by an Eastern Brown snake, which injects a lethal venom and is one of the world's most dangerous reptiles.

In tropical Darwin a man who accidentally stood on a snake suffered the same fate last month.

In the southern state of Victoria the authorities have urged people to take greater care.

Conservationists have insisted that many snakes have been unnecessarily killed by worried residents.