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Man arrested for starting blaze in Victorian State

Written by: Staff

Melbourne, Feb 13: Police in the Australian state of Victoria have arrested a man on suspicion that he may have been instrumental in starting a blaze in Gippsland that killed at least 21 people.

The police are questioning the 39-year-old man. No charges have yet been laid, the Herald Sun reported.

The man could reportedly face a charge of arson causing death, but police would not comment on that. No other details were immediately available.

Meanwhile, residents of two towns in the Victoria fires zone are coming under ember attack from surrounding fires.

The ember attack on the Healesville-Kinglake Road cut off Toolangi from its neighbour Healesville as the massive Maroondah Yarra Complex fire, which is out of control and has already burnt through 35,300 hectares, moved closer.ountry Fire Authority (CFA) strike teams from townships in the Dandenong Ranges are in Toolangi trying to fight back the blaze. Some Healesville residents have been evacuated while others are preparing to leave.

The bush fires have killed 181 people, according to the last official count, and it is estimated that more than 1800 homes have been destroyed.

CFA volunteers are still battling 15 fires across Victoria after containing 17 others and bringing 99 under control. Hot, dry conditions are expected again next week.

Police have also released a photo of a man they want to speak with in relation to a suspicious fire in Ivanhoe, in Melbourne's northeastern fringes. They said he was aged in his 20s, has a dark complexion and was seen wearing black clothes and yellow sunglasses.

Police are also hunting an arsonist whose actions threatened the Mornington Peninsula town of Baxter last night, as the Nine Network aired its bushfire relief telethon. The fire was deliberately lit and "had the potential of becoming a major fire in the area, which is tinder dry", a police spokesman said.

Police have also arrested two people for allegedly stealing money donated to bush fire victims.

Details of a national memorial service and a day of mourning to remember the victims of the bushfires would be announced very soon, Prime Minister Kevin Mr Rudd said.

"It's important that the nation has a formal opportunity to grieve," he said.

He also said an emergency warning system that would send text or voice messages to land lines and mobile telephones to help avert such tragedies was high on the Government's agenda.

A 10, 000 dollar compensation payment from the Victorian bushfire appeal will be paid to the families of fire victims.


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