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08 December 2023

Australian wildfire survivors suing power firm

Wine grapes hang on the vines damaged by the bushfires in Victoria's wine growing area of Yarra Valley. Some 80 wineries were hard-hit, losing vines, sheds, warehouses, machinery and accommodation. (AFP)


While the Australian government is pushing for a bushfire early warning system, Australian wildfire survivors have launched a lawsuit against a Singapore-owned electricity firm alleging a downed power line sparked one of the blazes, it was reported Sunday.

Kinglake residents are launching a class action against SP Ausnet and the Victoria state government claiming the power line set off a fire near the town that killed at least 100 people, The Age newspaper said.

The newspaper said police investigating the causes of the fires had removed a length of fallen cable and a power pole as evidence.

The firm reportedly handling the class action, Melbourne-based Slidders Lawyers, on its website urges residents affected by the bushfires to contact it and seek compensation.

SP Ausnet, part of the Singapore Power Group, refused to comment directly on the lawsuit, saying its priority was restoring power to fire-affected areas as quickly as possible.

"We stand ready to assist the relevant authorities with their inquiries if it is necessary for us to do so," it said in a statement.

The fire at Kinglake, about 50 kilometres north of Melbourne, was one of the most ferocious to sweep through Victoria state last week, killing at least 100 people and destroying about 1,000 homes.

Victoria Police chief commissioner Christine Nixon said authorities were still determining how the Kinglake fire started.

"At this stage we are not able to confirm how it started. I understand there is some legal action that people are taking, but at this stage we're still investigating its cause," she told Channel Nine television.

More than 180 people have been killed in multiple blazes in Australia's worst ever bushfire disaster.