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Investigators survey damage after devastating bushfires in Australia

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Brushfires ravage Western Australia
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "At many of the properties ... there was simply nothing left," West Australia's premier says
  • He says those who lost their homes immediately will receive $3,000 from the state
  • The state's fire authority says 68 structures were damaged or destroyed
  • Investigators believe the fire was started accidentally
RELATED TOPICS
  • Australia

(CNN) -- As residents returned Tuesday to Western Australia neighborhoods where fierce bushfires destroyed dozens of homes, state officials announced they would donate $1 million to a relief fund for victims.

"I have seen firsthand the devastation these bushfires caused. At many of the properties I saw, there was simply nothing left," West Australia Premier Colin Barnett said in a statement.

Those who lost their homes will immediately receive $3,000 from the government, he said.

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The raging flames damaged or destroyed at least 68 structures, Western Australia's fire authority said.

Heather Murphy's home was among them, but many of her neighbors' houses were unscathed. She wept as she saw the charred shell for the first time Monday night.

Bushfires rage in Western Australia

"It's unbelievable, you know. You don't think it will happen to you, and it does," she told CNN affiliate Seven Network.

An initial investigation indicates sparks caused by a person using an angle grinder accidentally started the blaze Sunday morning.

Bob Walton told Seven Network he escaped the fire with only the clothes on his back, but intends to rebuild his home.

"No good crying over spilled milk. You've just got to get on with it," he said. "If I wasn't insured, then I would be devastated, but mate, it's bricks and mortar."

A fire ban was still in place for the area Tuesday. Firefighters were patrolling the area and monitoring flare-ups, and hundreds of customers remained without power.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the state fire agency said the bushfire had burned 440 hectares (1,090 acres).

An additional 32 structures sustained partial damage in the blaze, the agency said.