call for action over fires

SYDNEY - Firefighters yesterday called on the Australian government to take a tougher stance against climate change in an effort to avoid more deadly bushfires like those that killed 181 people this week.

SYDNEY - Firefighters yesterday called on the Australian government to take a tougher stance against climate change in an effort to avoid more deadly bushfires like those that killed 181 people this week.

"Without a massive turnaround in policies, aside from the tragic loss of life and property, we will be asking firefighters to put themselves at an unacceptable risk," the United Firefighters Union of Australia said in an open letter to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The call came as police detained two people yesterday suspected of deliberately lighting one of the bushfires that savagely swept through southeast Australia on Saturday.

Authorities say the toll is expected to rise beyond 200 as more bodies are discovered in the charred remains of houses in the southern state of Victoria.

Marysville, sealed off to the public due to the horrific scenes there, may contain 50 to 100 more dead, authorities say. That would bring the toll to around 300.

Rudd has described the bushfires as "mass murder". In Victoria, arson carries a jail term of two to 15 years, and 25 years if there's loss of life.

The fires are the worst natural disaster in Australia in 110 years. The previous worst fires killed 75 people in 1983. - Reuters

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