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Teens charged with setting deadly Aus fire

Police charged two teenagers with starting a wildfire that left one man dead on the same day a series of blazes raced across southern Australia in a disaster that has become known as Black Saturday.

world Updated: Feb 02, 2010 13:36 IST

Police charged two teenagers on Tuesday with starting a wildfire that left one man dead on the same day a series of blazes raced across southern Australia in a disaster that has become known as Black Saturday.

The teens, aged 14 and 15, were each charged with several arson offenses, including arson causing death, Victoria state police said in a statement. A charge of arson causing death carries a penalty of up to 25 years in prison.

The charges come nearly a year after a series of wildfires tore across huge parts of southeastern Victoria, killing 173 people and destroying more than 2,000 homes. The February 7, 2009, blazes were the most destructive in the history of a country that faces more than 50,000 fires in an average year.

The teens, whose identities were not released, are accused of setting one of those fires, which ripped through Bendigo, 106 miles (170 kilometers) north of Melbourne. The blaze killed a 47-year-old man and destroyed 61 houses, causing a total of 23.5 million Australian dollars ($21 million) worth of property damage, police said.

They were scheduled to appear in court later on Tuesday.