A terrible but foreseeable tragedy for Australia

These fires are a regular occurrence so why are not vulnerable communities protected by regular backburning? Is it just another case of chronic government bungling or is it because of characteristic Greenie opposition to backburning? If the latter, the blame must be put fairly and squarely where it belongs and any future such opposition firmly discredited and resisted

More than 100 people are feared dead as the worst bushfires in Victorian history rage out of control. Police this morning confirmed 108 people, including four children, died in firestorms described by Premier John Brumby as "hell on earth". Shocked survivors said parts of the state looked as though they had been hit by a nuclear bomb. Most of the damage was done by two massive fires - one that virtually wiped out towns northeast of Melbourne including Kinglake and Marysville, and a second inferno that raced across Gippsland. The toll passes the Black Friday holocaust of 1939 in which 71 were killed, and the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983, which claimed 47 Victorians.

Twenty-two people were in the Alfred hospital with shocking burns, 10 in a critical condition. Heart-wrenching tales of tragedy and heroism emerged from the apocalypse. But it is feared many more bodies will be found in the swathe of destruction. As the scale of the disaster unfolded:

750 HOMES were confirmed destroyed and 330,000ha of land burnt.

PREMIER John Brumby said: "I have never seen anything like this and hope to never see it again."

POLICE were disgusted that some fires may have been deliberately lit.

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd called in the army and started a $10 million relief fund.

At least 29 people died in Kinglake, Kinglake West, St Andrews and Marysville where a monster fire is still raging on a 100km front. At least nine were dead in Gippsland at Callignee, Hazelwood, Callignee South and Jeeralang. Those two fires and a blaze near Beechworth are the major concerns for firefighters.

Picturesque Marysville was virtually wiped out and there are fears nearby Narbethong suffered a similar fate. "It was a most horrible day. It's going to look like Hiroshima, I tell you, it's going to look like a nuclear bomb. There's animals dead all over the road," Kinglake resident Dr Chris Harvey said. Six of the victims were in one car trying to outrun the inferno which swept through Kinglake in minutes.

Dr Harvey said the town was littered with burnt-out cars, and he believed many contained bodies. His daughters Victoria and Ali, both in their 20s, told of a local man, Ross, who lost both his daughters and possibly a brother. "He apparently went to put his kids in the car, put them in, turned around to go grab something from the house, then his car was on fire with his kids in it, and they burnt," Victoria said.

With cooler weather predicted for the next seven days, authorities are racing to contain all fires while they have the chance. Thousands of exhausted firefighters remained on the firefront last night, many still unable to return to their own ravaged communities. Teams of disaster victim identification experts were flying in from around the nation to perform a grisly task Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon compared to the Bali Bombings aftermath.

Mr Rudd announced Defence Force officers and bulldozers would be assigned to help build containment lines around major blazes continuing to burn unchecked. "The nation grieves with Victoria tonight," he said.

Police suspect some of the fires were started by arsonists as the state reeled in a heatwave which saw the mercury soar to a record 46.7C in Melbourne on Saturday. Forensic detectives and specialist arson investigators will visit the fire zones in the days ahead. CFA deputy chief officer Steve Warrington said even yesterday an arsonist was hampering efforts to fight fires in the Latrobe Valley. "We know we do have someone who is lighting fires in this community," he said. "While we often think it's spotting, we also know that there are people lighting fires deliberately."

Mr Brumby said his heart went out to those caught up in the disaster and called on Victorians to dig deep to help the thousands of people who have lost loved ones or houses. "It is one of the most tragic events in Victoria's history," he said. "For so many of us the scale of this tragedy defies comprehension. It is your generosity and selflessness that will see Victoria through this dark hour."

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Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here

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