Australian Police Charge Two With Looting Homes After Bushfire

Australian Police Charge Two With Looting Homes After Bushfire

26 February 2009

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Australia — Australian police charged two men with looting homes burned during bushfires that ravaged the southeastern state of Victoria almost three weeks ago, in the first such cases since the blazes.

The 18-year-olds are accused of involvement in burglaries in Narre Warren South, southeast of the state capital, Melbourne, police said in astatement today. The men were bailed to appear at the Dandenong Magistrates Court on April 9.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana said today the looting of bushfire victims’ homes was “despicable.” “Anyone that goes in stealing is bad enough as it is, but when people have been through some sort of trauma like this, I think it’s a pretty low act.”

The arrests come after a firestorm tore through Victoria, killing 210 people, razing more than 2,000 homes and destroying 450,000 hectares (1.1 million acres) of land. The men were arrested after police investigated a blaze that destroyed six homes and extensively damaged six others in Narre Warren South on Feb. 7, known as Black Saturday.

Police charged one of the men with handling stolen goods and another with two counts of theft. The stolen items included a mobile phone and other electrical equipment.

Australian authorities are bracing for high temperatures and strong winds tomorrow that may fan thefour main blazes still burning out of control in Victoria.

Victorian firefighters will be boosted by reinforcements from interstate, as well as 120 international emergency personnel from the U.S., Canada and New Zealand already on the ground, said Dan Connell, a spokesman for the stateCountry Fire Authority.

Winds as high as 40 kilometers (24 miles) an hour are forecast tomorrow and in Melbourne the temperature is expected to reach 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), according to theweather bureau.

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