Tuesday, February 10, 2009



Australia is searching for answers this morning with the death toll from the bushfires in Victoria having risen to 173 and questions arising about just how the losses could be so great and so far.

A royal commission will be launched to examine the policy of advising residents to stay and defend their home or to evacuate beforehand.

In the worst peacetime loss of life the country has ever experienced, it is feared the number of dead could be as high as 230, the Times reports today.

Towns have been sealed off as potential crime scenes with police indicating they are closing in on arsonists believed to be involved in lighting some of the 400 blazes, the Guardian reports.

An emotional Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister, said: "These numbers [of dead] are numbing. There are no words to describe it other than mass murder."

At least 750 houses have been destroyed and another 5,000 people have been left without homes