Australian police detain 2 about wildfires

February 12, 2009 06:10


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The federal government of Australia said Thursday it will clear away hurdles that have stalled a nationwide fire alert telephone system, after thousands of people were caught off-guard by the deadliest wildfires in Australia's history. Privacy laws and bickering between state officials over funding had snarled the plan for years, The Australian newspaper reported Thursday. But there is a new urgency after the weekend blazes in Victoria state killed at least 181 people. Officials said the death toll could exceed 200. Police detained two suspects Thursday after they were reported acting suspiciously in an area burned out by last weekend's fires, some of which authoriteis suspect were set by arsonists. But it was unclear if authorities suspected them of setting fires, or of some other wrongdoing after the fires started. Detectives responding to a tip found the men near Yea, which is about 20 kilometers north of Marysville, a town utterly wrecked by an inferno Saturday and where officials say up to 100 people were killed. "We've picked them up and it will now take us a little bit of time just to work through and establish what's been going on," Deputy Police Commissioner Simon Overland told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

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