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Australia mourns victims of deadly wildfires

world Updated: Feb 22, 2009 08:03 IST

AP
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Australians gathered at ceremonies large and small for an official day of mourning for the victims of the country's deadliest wildfires.

Forensic investigators in the disaster zone took a break from their grim search for more bodies among the ruins of homes razed by some of the hundreds of fires that swept southern Victoria state on February 7, killing more than 200 people.

Thousands of people including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd came together at a sports stadium in the Victorian capital of Melbourne to honour the dead.

"These fires have united us all in grief. They have united us all in our response, and they unite us all in the task of rebuilding. Because we will rebuild," Victorian Premier John Brumby said at the ceremony.

Thousands more gathered to watch the ceremony on giant screens erected elsewhere in Melbourne, other cities and at towns in the scorched region.

Queen Elizabeth's daughter Princess Anne flew to Australia to attend the ceremony and hundreds of survivors were brought on busses from the stricken region.

Other survivors living in tents or with friends since they lost their homes came together in parks and public areas to watch the ceremony and grieve.