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24 February 2024

Australian judge launches major inquiry into deadly wildfires

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (third from left) hugs an unidentified Wandong local, north of Melbourne on Sunday during a memorial for victims of the country’s worst wildfire disaster. (AFP)

A judge has launched a major inquiry into the deadly Australian wildfires, while authorities have announced they would find ways to make the region safer before the next season of inevitable blazes.

Police raised the death toll on Tuesday to 200 from the February 7 fires that raged across southern Victoria state, saying it would climb further as more bodies were recovered from the devastation. A firefighter, meanwhile, was crushed by a falling branch – the first death in the fire zone since the disaster.

Former Victoria state Supreme Court Justice Bernard Teague outlined his first steps in what officials say will be one of the largest and most complex disaster investigations ever seen in Australia. The inquiry will determine the cause of the inferno and how to avoid a repeat.