Australian Army chief says 37 still missing after fires

Australian Army chief says 37 still missing after fires

28 February 2009

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Australia — At least 37 people are still missing three weeks after the Black Saturday bushfires which killed 210 people, an Australian Army chief said today.

Brigadier Michael Arnold, commander of the Joint Task Force assisting Victorian authorities in the fire relief effort, said new teams of soldiers would begin searching devastated properties previously combed for outstanding disaster victims.

Ninety army reservists flew into Melbourne today to join existing soldiers on the ground around the Kinglake area in double-checking ruined homes.

Last week, Victorian Coroner Jennifer Coate ordered virtually all bushfire-ravaged sites to be closely searched again after several sets of human remains were recovered from sites already searched.

“This is a search task requested of us by the police. The coroner wanted to be convinced that a reasonable search had been conducted,” Brig Arnold said.

“To do that, the police, with us, will go right through the 1300 or so sites that were affected by the fire to confirm that there are no more human remains.

“It’s not an easy task. We know that there are 37 missing persons still, the odds are we will come across human remains during this search.”

The death toll from February 7 is already the worst of any bushfire disasters in Australia’s history.

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