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Published:February 8th, 2009 06:36 EST
Australian Wildfires Claim 65 Souls

Australian Wildfires Claim 65 Souls

By SOP newswire

Australian police say the death toll from wildfires in the country`s southeast has reached 65, as emergency crews moved farther into a huge, burned out area.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin RuddPolice said Sunday the victims died in several fires that have blazed through Victoria state.  Authorities say the death toll could climb as rescue crews comb through the ruins.

Officials say some of those who died were trapped in cars trying to flee the blazes.

Authorities say at least 18 people have been injured in the fires and 640 homes destroyed so far. 

Exhausted Firefighters Getting Help

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he will send troops to help thousands of volunteer firefighters exhausted by battling the blazes.

Firefighters have been out in force since Friday in the states of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, manning hoses and building firebreaks to contain the blazes.

The temperature Saturday reached 46 degrees Celsius, and combined with raging winds created perfect conditions for giant fires. 

Region Prone to Fires

Southeastern Australia is one of the world`s most fire-prone regions.  Hot summer conditions have been exacerbated by a long-standing drought.

Officials believe some of the ongoing deadly fires were set deliberately. 

A recent report from the Australian Institute of Criminology shows that about 30,000 fires are started by arsonists each year, causing $1 billion in damage.  The Institute recommends better education campaigns in the community and schools.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.