At least 37 still missing in Australia fires: army

A New Zealand firefighter is seen at the scene of a controlled bushfire near the town of Reefton, about 96km (60 miles) east of Melbourne February 17, 2009. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

SYDNEY (Reuters) - At least 37 people are still missing three weeks after devastating bushfires killed at least 210 in Australia’s southern state of Victoria, a senior army officer said on Saturday.

Brigadier Michael Arnold, head of a joint task force assisting state authorities in the search for bodies, said he anticipated new remains would be found after Australia’s worst natural disaster in 110 years.

Victorian coroner Jennifer Coate has ordered more than 1,000 sites to be re-examined after human remains were found in areas already thought to have been cleared.

“The coroner wanted to be convinced that a reasonable search had been conducted,” Australian Associated Press quoted Arnold as saying. He said the search would involve about 1,300 sites.

“It’s not an easy task. We know that there are 37 missing persons still, the odds are we will come across human remains during this search,” he said.

There had been fears that four large fires still burning in Victoria could spread over the weekend, but fire crews said they had made progress in containing them.

Authorities have warned that more hot weather could lie ahead next week.

Editing by Paul Tait