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Deadly wildfires kill 128 in Australia

The death toll for Australia's deadliest wildfire is 128, with the number expected to rise, authorities said.

Wildfires have been burning for weeks in Victoria, but wind and higher temperatures caused a deadly firestorm to sweep through the region. The southern region of Australia is suffereing worst drought in a century.

"The Victoria Country Fire Service said some 850 square miles (2,200 square kilometers) were burned out," reported the Star Tribune. The affected area is comparable to an area larger than Luxembourg, or three times the size of Hong Kong, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Australin Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in an interview with Australian television that up to 400 troops will head to the affected regions to aid in rescue and recovery efforts.

"Rudd announced the creation of a AU$10 million ($6.7 million) relief fund to immediately assist the more than 600 families that have lost homes to the blaze. He also promised troops would be deployed to help fight the flames," reported CNN.

At least 750 homes were destroyed in Victoria state, where all the deaths occurred.

Police suspect arsonists are responsible for the deadly blazes.

"Our fire experts and our own investigators have suggested that the way that it happened, how fast that it happened, that there is good evidence to believe that it was lit," said state police commissioner Christine Nixon.

Sources:
Star Tribune. http://www.startribune.com/world/39280602.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUUT
The Age. http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-national/one-of-australias-darkest-days-gillard-20090209-81id.html
Sydney Morning Herald. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/australian-wildfires-rage-on-after-killing-128-20090209-81te.html
CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/02/08/australia.wildfires/index.html