2 Mar 2009

More NZ teams to bolster bush fire effort

10:16 pm on 2 March 2009

More New Zealand firefighters and police are heading to the Australian state of Victoria amid the threat of more bush fires this week.

Firefighters are bracing for more extreme weather in Victoria, with hot temperatures and high winds forecast from Monday night.

Four fires are still burning out of control throughout the state and a total fire ban remains in place.

The second contingent of New Zealand firefighters will fly to Victoria on Wednesday to help contain fires which have raged since 7 February.

The team of 57 firefighters will stay in Australia until the end of March.

Most of the firefighters who went over in February will return to New Zealand on Thursday.

A second team of New Zealand police travelled to Victoria on Monday.

The team of three, which includes a fingerprint specialist, is replacing six officers who have been working on victim identification since 11 February.

Rudd thanks NZ

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Monday thanked New Zealand for its help.

A cheque for $2 million was handed to the Australian Red Cross before a joint news conference with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who is in Australia for talks with Mr Rudd.

The money included a $500,000 donation from the New Zealand Government and funds raised during the public appeal for victims of the fires.

Mr Rudd says that contribution, and other support from New Zealand, is typical of the relationship between the two countries.

He thanked the New Zealanders and the Government "for their extraordinary expression of friendship, support and solidarity with Australia and the people of Victoria."

The fires, which began on 7 February, have so far claimed 210 lives. Another 37 people are still unaccounted for.