Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 19° Clear
News >  Nation/World

Massive wildfires kill 35 in southeastern Australia

An emergency vehicle races away from a blaze near a structure in the Gippsland region in Australia’s Victoria state on Saturday.  Wildfires  killed at least 35 people and razed some 100 homes.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
An emergency vehicle races away from a blaze near a structure in the Gippsland region in Australia’s Victoria state on Saturday. Wildfires killed at least 35 people and razed some 100 homes. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Associated Press

SYDNEY – Walls of flame roared across southeastern Australia, razing scores of homes, forests and farmland in the country’s worst wildfire disaster in a quarter century. At least 35 people died and the toll could rise, police said today.

Witnesses described seeing trees exploding and skies raining ash as temperatures hit a record 117 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday in Victoria state and combined with raging winds to create perfect conditions for uncontrollable blazes.

“Hell in all its fury has visited the good people of Victoria in the last 24 hours,” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters today as he toured the fire zone.

Police said they believed the deaths included groups of people whose charred bodies were found in cars – suggesting families or groups of friends were engulfed in flames as they tried to flee. One official said an entire town had been razed save for one building, though no deaths were reported there.

Conditions in Victoria eased today, but several major fires were still posing a threat and state Premier John Brumby said troops would be deployed to help thousands of exhausted volunteer firefighters battle on.

The fires were so massive they were visible from space Saturday. NASA released satellite photographs showing a white cloud of smoke across southeastern Australia.

Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe said police suspected some of the fires were set deliberately and predicted it would take days to get all the blazes under control.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.