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Monday, February 9, 2009

Australia Bushfire Deaths Rising

At least 173 people are dead and 24 blazes remain out of control as Victoria's bushfire crisis enters its fourth day and police hunt the arsonists responsible.

Police are hunting down a serial arsonist believed to have been responsible for lighting the worst of the Victoria fires.

Police have confirmed that they believe the man who lit the devastating Delburn Complex of fires around nearby Boolarra last month, destroying 29 houses and more than 6000ha, is the same person responsible for the Churchill blaze. The Churchill-Jeeralang fire in Gippsland, was threatening the township of Won Wron and remains out of control. So far, 21 people have been killed by the blaze.

It's expected police will release an image today of a man sought for questioning over the fires. "We'll soon be in a position to provide face images of people we believe responsible," Morwell Detective Sergeant Brett Kahan said.

Fire criminologist Dr Damon Muller said more than one arsonist would have been responsible for the Victorian fires. He said the number of fires burning in the state - up to 400 over the weekend - pointed to multiple arsonists. "It would be surprising if some of them were not deliberately lit, just by virtue of the significant number," Dr Muller said.

Profiling an arsonist is as difficult as controlling the fires they start, according to psychologists. But in general they are likely to be male, a loner, live outside the community but love to watch their handiwork.

For more coverage, go here.

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