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Victoria bursts into flame

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HEALESVILLE, Australia – Towering flames razed entire towns in southeastern Australia and burned fleeing residents in their cars as the death toll from the country's worst fire disaster in a quarter-century reached 65 on Sunday.



At least 640 homes were destroyed in Saturday's inferno when searing temperatures and wind blasts produced a firestorm that swept across a swath of the country's Victoria state, where all the deaths occurred.



"Hell in all its fury has visited the good people of Victoria in the last 24 hours," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters as he toured the fire zone on Sunday. "It's an appalling tragedy for the nation."



Thousands of exhausted volunteer firefighters were still battling about 30 uncontrolled fires Sunday in Victoria, officials said, though conditions had eased considerably.



Government officials said the army would be deployed to help out, and Rudd announced immediate emergency aid of 10 million Australian dollars ($7 million).

The tragedy echoed across Australia. Leaders in other states — most of which have been struck by their own fire disasters in the past — pledged to send money and volunteer firefighters. Funds for public donations opened Sunday quickly started swelling.



Underscoring Australia's size and its often-harsh landscape, thousands of residents of tropical northern Queensland state watched the blanket news coverage of the fires from homes soaked by floodwaters after weeks of drenching storms.



In Victoria, witnesses described seeing trees exploding and skies raining ash on Saturday as temperatures of up 117 F (47 C) combined with blasting winds to create furnace-like conditions.



Police said they were hampered from reaching burned-out areas to confirm details of deaths and property loss. But Victoria Police Commissioner Christine Nixon confirmed deaths at a dozen sites. The toll climbed higher in steps during the day, reaching 65 by Sunday evening and likely to rise further, said police spokeswoman Sgt. Creina O'Grady.



Australia's deadliest fires were in 1983, when blazes killed 75 people and razed more than 3,000 homes in Victoria and South Australia.



Police said charred bodies had been found in cars in at least two places — suggesting people were engulfed in flames as they tried to flee.



Health Minister Daniel Andrews said 78 people were hospitalized with burns. Dr. John Coleridge of Alfred Hospital, one of the largest in the fire zone, said injuries ranged from scorches on the feet of people who fled across burning ground to life-threatening burns. At least three would probably die, he said.

The fires were so massive NASA took satellite photographs of the smoke cloud.

Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe said police suspected some of the fires were set deliberately. He predicted it would take days to get all the blazes under control.



Victoria Country Fire Authority official Stuart Ord told Sky News some 460 square miles (1,190 square kilometers) had been burned by Sunday.

Marysville, a former gold rush town that was home to about 800 people 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Melbourne, was almost completely wiped out.

"Marysville is no more," Senior Constable Brian Cross told The Associated Press as he manned a checkpoint Sunday in nearby Healesville on a road leading into the town. No deaths were reported in Marysville, but police sealed it off because they feared bodies would be found there.



Television footage from Marysville showed a scene of utter devastation: house after house was a smoking ruin, with wooden beams in cinders, piles of blackened bricks and iron roofing sheets twisted in the heat. The police station, schoolhouse and pub were gutted. Burned-out cars littered the streets.

Townships in the Kinglake nearby district, a normally sleepy region of farms and weekend-getaway spots where at least a dozen people died, were also ruined.

Victoria Country Fire Service spokesman Hayden Lane said 640 houses had been confirmed destroyed — 550 in the Kinglake district — and that tally was expected to rise.




"This is our house here — totally gone," Wayne Bannister told Sky News, standing with his wife Anita amid a tangle of blackened timber and bricks in Kinglake.




Another man, who was not named, described to Sky battling the flames with a garden hose until he heard first his car gas tank, then a house propane gas tank, explode. He and his wife fled through a window.




"It rained fire," he said. "We hid in our olive grove for an hour and watched our house burn."




Residents reported the fire tearing through the region at high speed, burning everything before it.




Temperatures in the area dropped to about 77 F (25 C) on Sunday, but along with cooler conditions came wind changes that officials said could push fires in unpredictable directions.




Dozens of fires were also burning in New South Wales state, where temperatures remained high for the third consecutive day. Properties were not under immediate threat.




Wildfires are common during the Australian summer. Government research shows about half of the roughly 60,000 fires each year are deliberately lit or suspicious. Lightning and people using machinery near dry brush are other causes.

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Bursts, BURSTS**


As well as Marysville, King Lake has almost been destroyed completely and the fire there is threatening other towns. I went to Marysville once for a stay up in Lake Mountain, we took the bus up to see teh snoez :sad:.


Also King Lake I went to on school camp last year... and I remember how it was and correctly predicted it'd pretty much burn to the ground :\. Bad times, 66 dead...

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Yeah, it's horrible. My uncle is a volunteer firefighter and someone he knows from his region who is also a firefighter got taken to hospital last night with 50% of burns to his body.


What really horrifies me is hearing the reports of people that burned alive in their cars trying to flee the bushfires. Families of up to 6 perishing, it's just hard to comprehend.


Our respects go out to the families that have perished. This is the worst day in Victoria's History and really puts things into perspective.

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New reports that the people that lit the fires are actually trying to relight some of the fires that the CFA have extinguished.


Ugh. There needs to be tougher laws about this sorta thing now.


It's just sick. Imagine if some of the firefighters caught them. Could get messy.

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Wildfires are actually a good thing, sometimes, because they thin out the brush that has accumulated over time. Still, the deaths are terribly sad.


Australia's king is being an irresponsible idiot for comparing this to terrorism. A lot of good his government did protecting its people!

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Death toll from blazes hits 166


Death toll from blazes hits 166

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 » 03:18am


The official toll has now risen to 166.


More than 70 of those people died in the Kinglake fire, which has burnt through 220,000 hectares of the central highlands.


Senior fire and parks officials have told staff they fear there may be more than 200 deaths when the heartbreaking task of cleaning up is complete.


The fires are already Australia's worst natural disaster by far: worse than Ash Wednesday, Black Friday, Cyclone Tracy and even the Bali bombings.


Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers are struggling to cope emotionally.


There are so many bodies. Many don't even look like bodies and will require the attentions of specialised police Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) teams.


DVI coordinator Inspector Greg Hough said the identification process would take a long time as fatalities had occurred across the state.


He called on families to do what they could to help identify loved ones but conceded that in many cases 'it will be done forensically'.


More than 750 houses have been destroyed and 330,000 hectares have been burnt.


There are 31 fires still raging throughout Victoria after record heat and wild winds set the state ablaze on Saturday.


The biggest current threat is in Beechworth, in the state's north, where a blaze is burning out of control, while the Churchill fires in Gippsland are also threatening homes.


The Beechworth blaze has burnt 30,000 hectares and continues to threaten the communities of Stanley, Bruarong, Dederang, Gundowring, Gundowring Upper, Kancoona, Kancoona South, Coral Bank,


Glenn Creek and Running Creek.


The fire has skirted Beechworth and is heading towards Yackandandah.


'There are seven or eight small settlements in the path of this fire and those residents have been urged to get their fire plans under way,' Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) spokesman Geoff Russell said.


All fire-devastated areas will be treated as crime scenes to determine if arson was involved, Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon said.


Emergency relief operations are underway throughout the state including a massive exercise at Whittlesea, which is serving survivors from Kinglake and its surrounds.


At least 20 people have been killed in Kinglake and nine in Kinglake West with dozens more fatalities in nearby communities, while at least 550 homes have been razed.


As refugees flooded down the mountain from Kinglake and surrounding townships into Whittlesea, relief workers headed the other way, taking desperately needed food, water and fuel supplies to those who have remained behind.


The death toll surpasses that from the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires, in which 75 people died in Victoria and South Australia, and the Black Friday bushfires of 1939, which killed 71.



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Wildfires are a natural part of the ecosystem, and necessary to prevent the buildup of a lot of brush. Kevin Rudd's government is preparing to get vindictive over deaths that were basically accidents.

well that is right... but if most fires were lit intentionaly, that is, them were with the idea of damage nature and humans, so that is an attack to ecosystem and society, so that's a bit like terrorism. :thinking:


166 people, so sad :cry: :(


a 4 years old got charged? :stunned: you mean a kid? :confused:

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Well it would have happened sooner or later... you can't have hot summers and a lot of dry kindle sitting around for years and years without a wildfire occurring eventually. I just hope this isn't turned into some rallying cry for a new tax to combat "global warming" or whatever.


And it's about time we get those terrible 4 year olds off the streets... they should be locked away forever!



Amid speculation some of the fires in Victoria were deliberately lit - and with reports yesterday that people were returning to relight blazes after fire crews had left an area - Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said: "There are no words to describe it other than mass murder."




He's milking this tragedy for all it's worth.

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It is a bit ridiculous he's calling the whole thing a mass murder since some of these are lightning-strike fires, and I bet you in the weeks to come there'll be evidence of some not being so deliberately lit, like that 4 year old. I don't think s/he should have been charged, and technically, s/he CAN'T be charged - children under the age of 10 cannot be charged for a criminal offence since they don't know right from wrong in the eyes of the court. Some people seem to not know this but it's outrageous that that kid's been charged for it, it's breaking laws and yet people are standing by doing nothing.

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