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There are 173 people confirmed dead. That number is expected to rise. There are 955 homes destroyed. That number will probably rise too. 33 fires continue to burn out of control. More than 300,000 hectares have already been burnt. Several towns have been erased from the map.
Some of you know that I work for the State government department that is responsible for fire fighting in Victoria. The mood in our office is very sombre at the moment. We have fire briefings three times a day. There are frequent requests for extra staff to come and help with the fire effort. The media is full of stories about those who have lost everything, those who have lost their lives, those who have lost family. There are some stories of amazing joy – those whose houses remain standing when every other house around theirs was razed by fire. The amazing job done by all the firefighters. Vision of our Prime Minister, and our Premier, reduced to tears by the devastation as they tour the affected areas.
This is now the worst natural disaster in Victoria’s, if not Australia’s, history.