PM pays tribute to 'Black Saturday' survivors

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd paid tribute Thursday to the "extraordinarycourage" of survivors of the 'Black Saturday' wildfires ahead of thedisaster's first anniversary.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd paid tribute Thursday to the "extraordinary courage" of survivors of the 'Black Saturday' wildfires ahead of the disaster's first anniversary.

Mr Rudd said the February 7 firestorm, Australia's worst ever natural disaster, shook the nation and called for the country to pause and reflect on Sunday's official day of mourning.

"The Black Saturday bushfres were catastrophic in their scale and in their impact," Rudd told a sombre sitting of parliament.

'Extraordinary courage'

"One hundred and seventy-three Australians lost their lives, more than 800 others were injured, some with horrific burns.

"The survivors in these devastated communities showed extraordinary courage and resilience."

Rudd said the nation would pause to remember "those who escaped the inferno with nothing more than the clothes on their back".

"We remember those... who are still rebuilding their homes, who are still rebuilding their lives, and those who are battling painful and traumatic memories," he said.

Heroism remembered

"We also remember the bravery and the heroism of the firefighters and other volunteers, many of whom battled to save their neighbour's property while their own homes burned to the ground."

In the year since the fires, which flattened more than 2,000 homes, Rudd said 99 percent of affected properties had been cleared and congratulated those who had begun to rebuild.

But he also acknowledged there were those who were "still wrestling with the agonising decision of whether to stay and rebuild, or whether to move away".

Rudd will attend an official mass in Melbourne Sunday to mark one year since the fires, which struck in hot and windy conditions following years of drought.

Source AFP

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