Whittlesea – Australians Mourning the lives lost in wildfires last week sought comfort at churches Sunday even as Firefighters continued to battle a dozen blazer still burning in the state.
Fire engines raced past the small, 140-year-old Christ Church in Whittlesea while the Archbishop of Melbourne was leading a service, their sirens briefly drowning out a song.
More than 180 people were killed and 1800 when some 400 homes destroyed Blaze – some thought to have been deliberately set – tore across Victoria state on Feb. 7 in Australia’s worst-ever wildfire disaster.
Across the 1500-square mile fire zone, residents and friends gathered at church services to pray for the dead. The scene was repeated at churches across the country.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd attended a service in the town of Wandong, where he joined residents in placing flowers and leaves into a bowl of water in a symbol of remembrance and Rebuilding.
In Whittlesea, about 60 miles north of the state capital of Melbourne, Governor-General Quentin Bryce joined about 200 people who overflow into Christ Church’s yard for an hourlong service.
“You could feel the Togetherness there,” Bryce said. “It will give people support and comfort in their grief.”
Police have arrested a man in connection with one of the fires and he will appear in court Monday to face charges of arson causing death, intentionally lighting a wildfire, and possessing child pornography. His identity is being concealer by the court because of the risk of reprisal attacks against him or his family.