Australia is mourning victims of the worst wildfires the country has ever witnessed.
On Monday members of parliament stood in silence, many with tears in their eyes. At least 171 people are known to have perished in the fires and with some towns still not accessible to recovery teams, that figure is likely to rise. The southern state of Victoria bore the brunt of the firestorm, but many parts of New South Wales have also been devastated. Entire communities have been wiped off the map. Some of those trying to flee were burned in their cars, unable to out-drive the spread of the flames. Stunned survivors have been trading stories of how they escaped, others stories of those that did not. One resident of Whittlesea told Victoria state premier John Brumby: “All our history is gone and this is the sad thing, there is no history left, the town’s just gutted. And all of our best friends are dead, and their kids are dead. I played golf with a 12-year old kid on Saturday and he’s not here any more, you know. It’s just devastating.” Police say some of the fires were started deliberately. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called such action “mass murder.” Any person convicted of starting these fires could receive a life sentence and feel the anger of a nation.