10:16am PREMIER John Brumby was today unable to deny reports that up to one in five Marysville residents perished in the bushfires.
Fire authorities fear that up to 100 of its 519 residents may have perished in the blaze that left only a dozen homes standing in the town, northeast of Melbourne, the HeraldSun reports.
Mr Brumby, speaking on ABC Radio National's Breakfast program, said that he had visited Marysville since the fires and saw first hand that "there is nothing left".
"I went there (to Marysville) as a kid, I can remember that, I think three million Australians have been to Marysville and done Stevenson's Falls, there's just nothing left of the town," he said.
“It's so eerie – there’s no sound, there’s nothing," he said.
"There’s no activity, there’s no people, there’s no buildings, there’s no birds, there’s no animals, everything’s just gone. So the fatality rate will be very high.”
Asked if he expected more bad news on the death toll from the fires, which stands at 181, Mr Brumby said: "The number will continue to increase.
"Yesterday we had two emergency meetings of cabinet...and were briefed on all of these issues by the relevant authorities, so the number tragically will continue to increase."
CFA firefighter John Munday, who was in one of the fire trucks that entered Marysville about 10 minutes before the firefront swept through the town just before 6pm on Saturday, described in horrific detail how little hope so many residents had of escaping, let alone surviving.
"The toll is going to be massive," Mr Munday said.
He described how he and his crew had to make the heartbreaking decision to save themselves knowing they were leaving people to die.
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"We had people banging on the sides of our tanker begging us to go back to houses where they knew there were people trapped, but we couldn't because if we had, we'd all be dead too," Mr Munday told The Australian.
"There were children running down the streets with flames behind them. It was hell. I never want to go back to that place, never.
"As we drove down to the Gallipoli Park, where people were assembling, we knew there were people in homes that were on fire and they had no hope.
"The whole town died around us as we bunkered down on the outside of the oval ringed by funeral pyres while all around us we had the screaming noise of gas cylinders exploding in homes.
"The only way we could have saved them was to put ourselves on the altar and put a sword to our own hearts."
Fire continues to threaten communities in the state's northeast near Yea, with strong winds pushing the fire front further north.
Late last night an urgent threat was declared for townships surrounding the Alexandra base camp from which fire fighting efforts were being coordinated after a southerly change fanned the Murrindindi/Yea fire which covers more than 100,000 hectares.
Read more on the HeraldSun online.