January 20, 2003

Malaysians escape deadly Canberra fires

MELBOURNE Jan 19 - All Malaysian diplomatic staff and their homes in Canberra have escaped the devastating bushfires which have so far claimed four lives and destroyed more than 400 houses in Australia's national capital.

Malaysian deputy High Commissioner Abdul Malek Abdul Aziz told Bernama that he was checking the well-being of Malaysian diplomatic staff and up to last night there were no reports of any Malaysian loss.

As the fires raged on in the beautiful garden city of Canberra, about 2,500 people in up to 12 suburbs had been evacuated and housed in schools and colleges.

Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Simon Crean have interrupted their holidays to visit the devasted suburbs and comfort people who have lost their houses.

Apart from Canberra, there are scores of bushfires in the states of Victoria and New South Wales.