Friday, February 06, 2015

Australian Black Saturday bushfire victims win $225m settlement

AusNet, An Australian energy company, announced a 225-million US dollar settlement with hundreds of survivors of the infamous Black Saturday bushfires on Friday...
The agreement with victims of the inferno that killed 40 people and destroyed the town of Marysville, north of Melbourne, came on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the fires that killed 173 across the Victoria state.

The fire started around 2:45 p.m. on Feb. 7, 2009, near a disused sawmill in Murrindindi, rapidly became an out-of-control inferno that raced through the Toolangi State Forest. An abrupt wind change then sent the bushfire straight into Marysville.

The settlement was announced an hour before a class action run on behalf of the Marysville victims was to begin in the Victorian Supreme Court.

The class action had alleged the fire was sparked by a break in an electrical conductor on a power pole near the Murrindindi Saw Mill.

The company denied its power poles were to blame.

The no-fault settlement, still to be approved in court, announced that AusNet, which the State Grid Corporation of China has bought a stake in since the 2009 disaster, will pay 195 million US dollars while its maintenance contractor will pay 7.5 million US dollars. The state government will pay 21.75 million US dollars.

"Perhaps not at the moment but in time, the benefits to the Victorian community - particularly those affected by the fires - of a settlement rather than judgments of this court with winners and losers following long trials will be very clear," said Justice John Dixon in court.

The Marysville settlement follows a 370.5-million US dollar agreement in December also led by AusNet for victims of the Kilmore blaze on Black Saturday that killed 119 people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

    Source: Xinhua -
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