KINGLAKE (AUSTRALIA): - The federal government said yesterday it will clear away hurdles that have stalled a nationwide fire alert telephone system, after thousands of people were caught off-guard by the deadliest wildfires in Australia's history.
Privacy laws and bickering between state officials over funding has snarled the plan for years, The Australian newspaper reported yesterday.
But there is a new urgency after the weekend blazes in Victoria state killed at least 181 people. Officials said the death toll could exceed 200.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said a plan for a telephone fire alert system had been before the government since 2004, but state governments had not endorsed it and that changes were required to federal privacy laws that bar private numbers from being handed out to emergency services.
Mr McClelland said another reason the system had not been implemented was that officials had to be sure it would not crash communications systems used by emergency services.
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