Australian bushfires nearly under control

Saturday 14 February 2009 22.50
Marysville - Razed to the ground
Marysville - Razed to the ground

Australian firefighters have been working to contain the bushfires that have killed at least 181 people.

Around a dozen fires are still burning in the state of Victoria and it will be at least two weeks before authorities will be able to say the fires are out.

In Marysville, which was razed to the ground when the fires peaked last weekend, police escorted residents back for a glimpse of the town.

Police said more than 200 of the town's former population of several hundred made the trip, but some deliberately chose to stay away.

The visit was made in buses under tight restrictions and residents were not expected to be allowed off the vehicles.

Authorities have said up to 100 people may be dead in Marysville, a once-picturesque community northeast of Melbourne.

The bushfires are the worst natural disaster to hit Australia in more than a century.

Yesterday, a man was charged with arson causing death and 'intentionally or recklessly' lighting a fire near the town of Churchill last weekend.

He was later moved to Melbourne for his own protection.

The disaster area, which includes more than 20 towns, has been declared a crime zone.

The fires have burnt 1,831 homes and left 7,000 people homeless.