9 Feb 2009

Bush fire toll now 108

8:42 am on 9 February 2009

The death toll in the bush fires in Victoria is now 108. Thirty one fires are still burning.

The Country Fire Authority says some of the fires could take weeks to contain.

At least 750 homes have been destroyed and more than 330,000 hectares burned. Arsonists are suspected as being responsible for some fires.

Prime minister Kevin Rudd has warned Australia to brace for further bad news.

As at 5.30am (AEDT) on Monday, the fire causing the greatest concern was in the northeast of the state, near Beechworth.

It already covers 30,000 hectares and continues to threaten the communities of Stanley, Bruarong, Dederang, Gundowring, Gundowring Upper, Kancoona, Kancoona South, Coral Bank, Glenn Creek and Running Creek.

A joint statement issued by the CFA and the Department of Sustainability & Environment said the front has crossed into the Mt Big Ben area.

Other communities around Glenburn, Taggerty and Rubicon are being urged to remain alert for any threats to their homes.

Nearly 40 schools in West Gippsland, central and South Gippsland are closed.

The total of 93 deaths was announced by Victoria Police at 2am (AEDT) on Monday. The number was raised at 6am (AEDT) by the DSE.

It surpasses the toll from the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires, in which 75 people died in Victoria and South Australia, and the Black Friday bushfires of 1939, which killed 71.