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  Monday, October 21, 2019
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Some 55 police officers are investigating the causes and consequences
Some 55 police officers are investigating the causes and consequences of unprecedented bushfires that have already killed 173 people in southern Australia, the local media said on Tuesday.

The fires have affected more than 220 hectares of land destroying at least 750 houses and leaving hundreds of people homeless. Some 14,000 residential buildings are without electricity.

The authorities in the state of Victoria launched on Tuesday a large-scale operation, Phoenix, to find suspected arsonists.

Christine Nixon, chief commissioner of Victoria's police, said on Monday that some of the fires in Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city, had been started deliberately.

The police fear the death toll could rise to 300 people following mopping-up operations in damaged areas, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Police in Victoria said if found, the arsonists would face murder charges, while South Australia's Premier Mike Rann said anyone guilty should be treated as terrorists.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed on Monday his condolences to Governor-General of Australia Quentin Bryce over the deadly fires.


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