Australian Fire Death Toll Climbs

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The raging Australian wildfires burn brightest at night. But by day, their damage is what's easiest to see.

One man returns home with a camera to capture pictures of what little is left.

"I'm burned on my face trying to fight the fires," he said.

Meanwhile, during today's session of Australia's parliament, prayer and the climbing death toll reveals the fires' growing impact.

"So far, 173 deaths," said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. "More than 500 injured. Nearly a thousand homes destroyed. Thousands now homeless."

Escaped Fires in a Wombat Burrow

Nesh Sinclair is one of the thousands of homeless.  She and her children survived the fires, hiding in a wombat burrow.

"We made a canopy of wet sheets and curtains that we had with us," she explained.

Sixty-mile-an-hour winds moved the flames so fast, not everyone had time to escape.

Automobiles collided on highways. Rescue teams found the remains of a family of six inside one vehicle.

"Fire holds a great terror for us all," Rudd told the assembed members of Parliament.

The prime minister expects the death toll to rise as burned communities become crime scenes.

Police have begun the task of combing through the rubble, searching for victims and clues for whom may have intentionally set some of the 400 fires.

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