Death toll in Australia’s bushfires rises to 65 (Lead)

February 8th, 2009 - 2:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Canberra, Feb 8 (Xinhua) The death toll in bushfires in Australia’s Victoria state Sunday afternoon rose to 65, the police said.
It has surpassed the worst death toll of 47 people in the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires in Victoria.

About 640 houses have also been destroyed across the state, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Six of the dead have been found at Kinglake, six at Kinglake West and four each at St Andrews and Wandong, all north of Melbourne, the report said.

The Australian Associated Press reported earlier that four people have been killed in the Gippsland town of Callignee and one more in Upper Callignee, three have died in Hazelwood and one at Jeeralang.

“We are sadly predicting more deaths,” the report quoted Victoria’s police chief commissioner Christine Nixon as saying.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, while touring the area with state government officials, announced a joint federal-state $10 million (US$6.5 million) emergency relief fund for the victims.

“This is an appalling tragedy for Victoria but, because of that, it’s an appalling tragedy for the nation,” Rudd said.

More than 20 fires continued to burn across Victoria Sunday.

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