Arson blamed for Australia fires
Police in Australia believe that arsonists were to blame for some of the fires which have caused destruction in the south-east of the country.
Almost 30 homes were destroyed in the Gippsland region of Victoria, after the state experienced its worst heatwave in 100 years.
Meanwhile, a new report suggested that half of the country's bush fires each year were started deliberately.
The Gippsland bush fires have been made worse by high winds and low humidity.
But the police believe at least two of them were started by what they described as a serial arsonist.
The launch of the investigation coincided with a new report from the Australian Institute of Criminology which found that half of the country's 20,000 to 30,000 wild fires each year were started deliberately.
VICTORIANS today awoke to the greatest bushfire catastrophe since Ash Wednesday. A statewide inferno that may have claimed up to 40 lives is still burning out of control.
Police, who last night were finally able to reach the blackened ruins of towns and communities, confirmed that 14 people had died. Six people who perished in a single vehicle in Kinglake, in the upper Yarra Valley, may have been from one family.
But police conceded they had little idea of how many others could be interred inside their ruined homes. Today they will continue the search for at least 25 people who were unaccounted for last night.
As more than 3000 firefighters and thousands of residents in dozens of communities last night battled to save homes, it emerged that hundreds of properties had already been lost.... <cont>
Latest report, over 640 homes destroyed and death toll now officially 49.