Death toll soars as Australia bushfire devastates Victoria
The wildfires have devastated swaths of
southeastern Australia [AFP]
At least 128 people are now known to have been killed in the deadliest wildfires ever to sweep Australia, officials have said.
Police and a Department of Sustainability and Environment spokesman in the state of Victoria gave the latest death toll early on Monday, but there were fears it could rise as emergency crews search more than 700 houses destroyed in the flames.
Many people are believed to have died in their cars as they tried to escape the fires.
Arsonists are being held responsible for starting some of the blazes, which are sweeping across an area of about 3,000 sq km across three states.
"These people are terrorists within our nation, they are the enemy within and we have to be increasingly vigilant about them," Mike Rann, the governor of South Australia state, said on Sunday.
At least 20 per cent of the fires in South Australia state were started by arsonists and another 20 per cent were the result of "stupidity or negligence," Rann said.
Arsonists were also relighting fires that had been brought under control, a fire authority official in Victoria said.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies