Black Saturday bushfire toll revised down to 173 from 210

  Black Saturday bushfire toll revised down to 173 from 210

30 March 2009

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Australia — The death toll from Victoria’s devastating Black Saturday bushfires has been revised down to 173 from 210.

Victoria Police said today extensive examinations by the coroner and a review of missing persons reports had resulted in the lowering of the toll.

Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe said police had always said the figures were preliminary until all coronial investigations were complete.

“We continuously stated that this would be a complicated and lengthy matter and it would take considerable time before we were in a position to accurately determine the number of people who lost their lives as a result of this tragic event,” he said.

“We have been able to account for a number of people who were initially presumed missing as a result of the fires and this has impacted on the final figure.”

Mr Walshe said a number of animal remains collected by Disaster Victim Identification Teams had also been discounted after examination.

“When the searches were conducted in the field our DVI teams recovered what they believed to be around 210 sets of remains.

“These remains have since been scientifically examined at the Coroner’s office. In some instances some remains have been examined and found to belong to one person, when originally suspected to be two or more.

Mr Walshe said 87 victims had been formally identified by the coroner, but said the process would still take a considerable amount of time and asked the community to be patient.

“As we have said many times before, the unfortunate reality is that due to the ferocity of the fires despite the best efforts of police and the Coroner we may not be able to formally identify everyone,” he said.

“This is still not the final figure and until the coronial process is completed on each individual than we will not be able to definitively say how many people died as a result of the fires.”

More than 2000 homes and properties were destroyed in areas such as Kinglake, Marysville and parts of Gippsland, while some towns and hamlets lost a substantial percentage of their populations.

Originally, it was feared as many as 45 people out of nearly 600 in Marysville perished, while almost a quarter of the 200-strong population of Strathewen, near Kinglake, was thought to have been wiped out.

But police said with the latest revision, it was believed 27 lives were lost in Strathewen and 34 from Marysville.

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