Australia pitches in to help fight bush fires in Victoria; death toll climbs to 84

February 8th, 2009 - 6:40 pm ICT by ANI  

Melbourne, Feb.8 (ANI): With the death toll from bush fires in Victoria reaching at least 84 by 9.30 p.m. Australian time, the other five states, the federal government and authorities in New Zealand have offered personnel and other assistance.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has pledged that the Australian army would join efforts to overcome the bushfires, on top of special welfare payments to those in need.
From the Australian Capital Territories, 90 firefighters and support personnel planned to set out on Sunday night for the northeast Victorian town of Beechworth to help battle deadly bushfires in the region, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
An ACT Emergency Services Agency spokesman said they would begin their first shifts on Monday morning, backed by 10 light and heavy tankers, while ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope offered his sympathies to the people of Victoria.
“Every Canberran that was touched by the 2003 ACT bushfires has some idea of what the many Victorian families and communities are going through during this difficult time, and our hearts go out to them,” he said in a statement.
“In particular, we offer our condolences and deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones in this terrible natural disaster.”
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) was to dispatch personnel, including 16 disaster victim identification (DVI) officers to help locate, recover and identify Victorian bushfire victims.
Tasmania Police also offered to deploy a Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team on Monday, while a team of specialist firefighters from the Tasmania Fire Service, Forestry Tasmania, and Parks and Wildlife Service were also expected in Melbourne on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, South Australian Premier Mike Rann said special crews from the Department for Environment and Heritage, who specialise in fighting deep forest fires, would head to Victoria while also pledging the assistance of Department for Families and Communities staff who would “help with the rebuilding of lives”.
Following talks with Victorian Premier John Brumby early on Sunday, NSW Premier Nathan Rees committed personnel and resources to Victoria, including up to 250 firefighters, 50 tankers, search and rescue personnel, identification experts and paramedics, while also denying the allocation would leave NSW’’s bushfires under-resourced.
Across the Tasman, the New Zealand government said it was considering sending help to Australian states ravaged by bushfires.
“We are concerned at the devastation taking place in Australia. If we can help our friends in Australia we will do, so I have asked for some advice on that,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said earlier on Sunday.
“Australians are always certain to help us out if we need it.” (ANI)

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