300 Feared Dead in Australia Fires
Task Force begins investigation
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2009 2:11 AM CST

(Newser) – More than 300 people may have died in the devastating bushfires that have torched 850 square miles of southeast Australia, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. While the official death toll stands at 173, an official warned that number would rise “steeply” as rescuers discover more bodies. Several people are missing. Some 24 fires are still burning throughout the state of Victoria, fueled by brisk winds and dry weather.

A task force is investigating the fires, some of which authorities believe were deliberately set, and the government has pledged to reevaluate its approach to wildfire readiness. "Whatever is necessary to examine will be examined so that the lessons can be learned to make sure that we never see this again," said the premier of Victoria.