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Thirty-five people killed in Australia wildfires: police

world Updated: Feb 08, 2009 08:40 IST

AFP
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The death toll from wildfires raging through southeastern Australia has reached 35, police said on Sunday, raising the number of confirmed dead from 26 earlier.

"We can confirm that the death toll is now 35," a Victoria state police spokeswoman told AFP.

Police have warned the death toll is likely to exceed 40 as investigators and rescue crews sift the ashes of properties razed in the bushfires that continued to burn out of control today.

Fanned by high winds and a once-in-a-century heatwave that sent temperatures soaring to 46 degrees Celsius, the fires destroyed hundreds of homes as they ripped through rural Victoria.

Most of those killed were caught up in an inferno northwest of Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city.

Rescue services are also fighting huge blazes to the north in New South Wales state.