Walls of flame roared across southeastern Australia on Saturday, razing scores of homes along with forests and farmland in the sunburned country's worst wildfire disaster in a quarter century. At least 25 people died and the toll could rise to more than 40, police said.
Witnesses described seeing trees exploding and skies raining ash as some of the hottest temperatures on record combined with raging winds to create perfect conditions for uncontrollable blazes.
More than 30,000 firefighters were struggled Saturday night to make headway against the largest of about a dozen fires in Victoria state that earlier in the day ripped unchecked across at least 115 square miles (30,000 hectares) of forests, farmland and towns.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe said investigators making their way into burned out areas had confirmed 25 deaths.