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(generated from captions) This program is not subtitled This program is captioned live. mass graves and broken lives. Junee's despair - we're getting hotter. The big heat - new evidence swamped in big seas. The rescue of a yacht crew

but Australia still struggling. And a timely ton from Ponting, Good evening. Juanita Phillips with ABC News. is still unfolding, The true extent of the Junee fire than first thought. but the losses are worse

has now reached 30,000 The number of sheep lost are still being counted. and property losses what caused the fire. Investigators are trying to find out

They say they do know that it started by the side of a road. and the Central Coast Today, both Junee

natural disaster zones. were officially declared The fire itself has been mopped up were being buried but, today, yet more sheep across Junee's once lush fields. has risen to six. The number of houses confirmed lost This lavender farm is one of them. Through all the smoke and and haze,

you could still see different colours, was just a big, big dirty colour, and where my house was a big dark colour. Um...? to rebuild, The Ingrams are determined on their friends but, for now, they're relying for clothing and shelter. and I really love 'em for it, And it's really nice and I thank 'em for it, but it's bloody hard. (Cries)

and the Acting Prime Minister The Acting Premier, John Watkins, visited the area today. Farmers are calling on them of applying for assistance. to simplify the process floating around - And you get these people I more mean the State Government - not necessarily you, and sort of offering things, coming in and big-noting themselves but they don't tend to offer things at all. Yep, yep. For many farmers, the stress of burying of livestock to keep the fire at bay as well as working is taking its toll. er...you can't do that. Emotional value is, um, is, um, became a vital resource Nearby Bethungra Dam in fighting Sunday's fire. But for six years, to shut it down. the State Government has been trying meet modern safety standards, It says the 200-year-old dam doesn't

determined to keep it in operation. but the Shire President is for helicopter pick-up It's been used extensively

on New Year's Day. and that's what saved Junee in the Weddin Mountains, A separate fire

in the State's west, has burnt 3,000 hectares, with crews called in from Sydney to relieve exhausted locals. Jayne Margetts, ABC News, Junee. the theory of global warming It seems by the facts. is now being confirmed The Weather Bureau says since records began in 1910. last year was Australia's hottest appears to be the only explanation They say the greenhouse effect scorching temperatures and the recent are a sign of things to come.

to tell residents Statistics aren't needed this week in some parts of eastern Australia can mean... just what rising temperatures OVERHEAD HELICOPTER ROTOR WHIRRS from the Bureau of Meteorology ..but new figures paint an alarming picture. was the hottest on record They show last year with nothing to account for it but global warming. In previous years, to help us get the records. we've had El Ninos we didn't have an El Nino effect But this past year, 2005, to break the record. and yet we've still managed

Across most of Australia, by more than 1 degree. the average temperature rose that got cooler The only region of Western Australia. was the coast It underscores the fact when it comes to temperatures, that everything is heading up but around the world. not only in Australia Global warming is real. But the Federal Opposition says the threat. the Government is ignoring the Kyoto Protocol, They need to ratify introduce an emissions trading scheme

renewable energy target. and increase the mandatory the Kyoto agreement Australia has refused to sign greenhouse gas emissions. that sets targets for cutting But the Government says is a priority. stopping global warming Next week in Sydney, a six-nation summit it will host which aims to find a technological solution to the problem. modern, breakthrough technologies We want to find solutions using the economy, secure people's jobs, that allow us us to expand lower greenhouse gas emissions. but do so with much, much The participants include biggest polluters - countries regarded as the world's and the United States. Japan, China the summit is a farce But environmentalists say the coal industry, aimed at protecting the world to heat up. a key sector that's causing It's really a conversation about of fossil fuels how to continue the promotion

and temperature change and all the carbon dioxide that that brings with it. continue over the next few decades. It's expected the warming will Michael Edwards, ABC News. of a Sydney to Hobart yacht Water police have rescued the crew off the Victorian Coast. which capsized to Sydney The boat was on the return journey

in rough seas south-east of Eden. when it overturned

tonight, The Swedish crew is back on land but otherwise unhurt. exhausted and seasick, was played out A delicate rescue operation about 7:00 this morning. in treacherous Bass Strait waters

The stricken 'Savcor' yacht in stormy weather capsized last night off Mallacoota, in Victoria's east. about 60 nautical miles aged between 21 and 52, The five crew members, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race were on their way back from when they hit trouble. up and down It knocked down the boat twice,

and there became some problems with the steering, also.

The boat become totally uncontrollable. Fierce winds and massive waves knocked one crewman overboard and threw the others about the cabin.

Everything was only flying around inside the boat. I was outside. The feeling that you don't have any control

and anything can happen. Suffering from extreme exhaustion and the effects of seasickness, the grateful crew members were back on land in the NSW town of Eden this afternoon. Despite their ordeal, they escaped with minor injuries, including bruising and mild hypothermia. Bass Strait is considered one of the most dangerous waterways in the world and...it almost claimed some more victims.

'Savcor' finished fifth in its division in the Sydney to Hobart race. Overall, it crossed the line in 46th place. A salvage operation is now under way to retrieve the yacht, which is worth an estimated $450,000. I'm very happy that I have sailed Sydney - Hobart. I didn't make the Hobart to Sydney this time. For others, being back on land resulted in some new year's resolutions. MALE REPORTER: Will you come sailing in Australia again? No... ..never! FEMALE REPORTER: So it's put you off for good, has it? Yes. And with that, the crew left to savour their safe return to land. They plan on heading back to Sydney tomorrow. This time, they'll be flying. Mary McDonald, ABC News, Eden.

They said they'd need a miracle, and many people in West Virginia believe one has been delivered. 12 coal miners have been found alive after being trapped for almost two days, 80 metres underground. (All sing) REPORTER: What happened up there? What did they say? We were sitting here in the vehicle and somebody came running down here screaming, "They're all alive!" They announced it over the church that they were all alive. Friends and relatives have celebrated the news, while the men have been taken to hospital. An explosion had filled the shaft with deadly levels of carbon monoxide. The men carried air purifying equipment that should have given them only seven hours of clean air. In Germany, hope is now fading for a woman and three children buried in the rubble of a collapsed ice-skating rink. Scores of people were enjoying the last of the school holidays when the roof came crashing down under the weight of a heavy snowfall. 11 people were killed. Europe correspondent Jane Hutcheon reports. In the cold light of day, teams of workers continue searching the wreckage of the local sports hall. There's shock and grief in this Bavarian town. (Speaks German) "I was just nearby," said this local resident. "There was a terrible noise. "I thought there had been an earthquake. "I can't believe this has happened." Many of the dead were children,

but more bodies are believed to be trapped under the twisted metal and heavy snow. (Speaks German) "We're here to help," says this rescue worker. "We can only pray they are still alive. but there are pockets of air. "It's very cold on the ice rink "We never give up hope."

Earlier, a 6-year-girl was pulled out of the wreckage

hours after the roof collapsed. That's given hope to friends and relatives of the missing. The authorities announced the start of an investigation following claims local officials had expressed concern about the weight of snow on the sports centre roof.

Instead of festive cheer, the new year has brought disaster and mourning to this German town. Jane Hutcheon, ABC News. And a young Australian has been killed in the Alps above that icerink at Bad Reichenhall.

The Foreign Affairs Department says 19-year-old Chantelle Eastwood from Bundaberg died in an avalanche. She was one of 10 buried in the snow. Seven managed to dig their way out. The snow storms have also swept into the Czech Republic, where two people are feared trapped after a supermarket roof buckled under the weight of snow. Detector dogs and rescue crews have been searching the building. 60cm of snow has fallen in the area in the past few days. Czech authorities are calling on other shops and businesses

to clear snow from their roofs. Continuing monsoon rains have brought more destruction to Indonesia's main island of Java. More than 200 people are feared dead after mudslides swept away dozens of homes in the central town of Cijeruk. At the weekend floods and deadly slides hit three villages in East Java, killing around 60 people. Environmental groups say the flooding and mudslides are the result of illegal logging and land clearing for coffee plantations. It's shaping up as the worst political scandal to hit Washington in decades. The once powerful lobbyist Jack Abramoff has admitted bribing federal law-makers with lavish overseas trips, meals and football tickets. He now says he'll help prosecutors pursue the politicians. Washington correspondent Mark Simkin reports. In Washington DC they play political hardball, and few played it harder than Jack Abramoff. The Republican lobbyist left court with his hat pulled low, having just admitted to conspiracy, fraud and bribing public officials. The Federal politicians he once bought are about to be sold out. I think by the time this is over this is going to be the biggest congressional scandal in history. It's estimated Jack Abramoff contributed more than $5 million to political campaigns. He allegedly bribed politicians and officials with free tickets to sporting events, lavish overseas trips and up-market meals. In return, he got favours for clients including Native American casinos. Government officials and government action are not for sale. The Justice Department will aggressively investigate and prosecute these types of cases which have a devastating impact on the public's trust of government. We will not shy away from that responsibility, no matter where the trail leads. The Justice Department has been investigating the case for years. At least a dozen politicians and officials are implicated. Everybody who Abramoff touched may end up, at minimum, stained out of this and some of them are going to end up with a permanent stain and wearing stripes. There are now a lot of very nervous politicians.

The scandal is likely to claim victims on both sides of politics, but the victim could be the lobbyist himself - he's facing 10 years in jail. Mark Simkin, ABC News, Washington. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is facing new allegations of corruption. An Israeli television station claims Mr Sharon's family has received more than $4 million in bribes. According to the report, the money came from an Austrian billionaire and involved illegal election funds. Mr Sharon's son Omri resigned from parliament this week.

He's due to be sentenced later this month over an election funding scandal. The Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates has died while holidaying on the Gold Coast. Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum was also the Emir of Dubai. He died at the the Palazzo Versace this afternoon from a heart attack.

His private jumbo is on stand-by to fly out of Brisbane's International Airport taking the sheik's body home to Dubai. The plane belonging to his Highness and the royal party is currently being refuelled in preparation for the transportation of his Highness' body back to Dubai in order to observe the customary burial. The 65-year-old sheikh must be buried by sundown tomorrow under customary laws.

Meanwhile, arrangements are being made to repatriate the body of the former PNG prime minister Sir Bill Skate after he died in Brisbane last night. Sir Bill was flown to Brisbane's Wesley Hospital on Saturday with cardiac problems and was placed on life support.

Sir Bill's time in office in the late 90s was surrounded by controversy, most notably when he was caught on hidden camera distributing corrupt payments. He resigned as prime minister a short time later. by my own very friends. I have been betrayed by those that have ulterior motives, and I intend to give the governor-general my letter of resignation at 10 o'clock tomorrow. His major achievement as prime minister was bringing peace to Bougainville after 15 years of civil war. Repeating our main story - more losses have been confirmed from the Junee bushfire. At least 30,000 sheep were killed and six houses destroyed.

And, still to come - a Ricky Ponting century.

Australian scientists have come up with a radical way to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes caused by bad teeth. It means complete extraction, but the evidence is so compelling

that the federal government is under renewed pressure to help by reinstating the Commonwealth dental scheme. It's been known for some time that people with severe gum disease like this, are at greater risk of heart disease and stroke. Now, a team from Australia and Norway have used blood tests to show that surgery can significantly reduce that risk. In this study we showed that by treating periodontal disease there was a lowering of the levels of these factors in the bloodstream. But the treatment the scientists chose is radical - there was a lowering of the levels of these factors in the bloodstream. But the treatment the scientists chose is radical - full teeth extraction. To tell somebody that they need to have all of their remaining teeth out is like telling you that you need to have your leg amputated. "Well, you're going to lose them all." In all, 67 participants underwent the surgery as part of the study. Despite being on heart tablets, Neville Fortune was still sceptical about the research. But now, with dentures in place, he's much happier and healthier. Oh, it's great, I feel totally different. My doctor then reduced heart tablets, reduced my diabetic tablets, the whole lot. There's a defect here, too. The success of this research has prompted renewed calls for the Federal Government to reinstate the Commonwealth Dental Program, which ended 10 years ago. Rather than discontinuing that program as a means of saving money, what the study indicates is it can actually cost money to a health system. what the study indicates is it can actually cost money to a health system. But a spokesman for the Acting Health Minister, Julie Bishop, says all State governments get enough from GST revenues to provide adequate health and dental programs. The Australian Dental Association says it doesn't care where the funding comes from, but it says unless more money is spent on early intervention and oral hygiene education it's likely more older people will need all their teeth extracted. Michael Vincent, ABC News. The national holiday road toll has risen to 66 with the death of a truck driver near Geelong in Victoria and two deaths in WA. Victoria and New South Wales have each recorded 15 deaths. The Northern Territory and the ACT are still fatality free. In finance - the Australian share market continued its record run, thanks to some good news from the United States. Phillip Lasker has the details.

No-one can accuse me of delivering bad news so far this year, although the year is still young and so is this report.

It's a case of onwards and upwards for the Australian share market with the All Ordinaries Index putting on another 44 points to close at 4,765.

Among the talking points - resources as usual. Lihir Gold was one of the many reflecting higher prices for its product, rising 10 cents to $2.34. One broker upgraded its profit forecast for insurance group IAG by 18%. And Telstra jumped back above $4 for the first time in six weeks. Major markets overseas started the year strongly thanks to just five words - they came from the minutes of the US Federal Reserve's last board meeting. The Fed signalled that further interest rate increases "probably would not be large". So, a process of raising rates over more than 18 months is coming to an end, which is a positive for the Australian economy. Although a new survey shows Australian's are worried about rising rates.

Mortgage broker, the Australian Financial Group, says

demand for fixed-rate property loans reached a peak in December with 19% of loans fixed. In August, just 9% were fixed

and the number of property loans rose more than 12%, while the value was up 19% on a year ago. But the really hot items are still gold and oil and it looks like higher prices at the petrol pump are on the way with oil continuing to rise. On foreign exchange markets, the Australia dollar was firmer against the US dollar. It will buy just over US$ 0.74. And that's finance. Darwin is struggling to cope with an influx of unwelcome visitors - not illegal immigrants, but ill-tempered crocodiles. The juvenile crocs have been forced out of their traditional territories by their older, bigger and even more snappish seniors. In the Top End, about 70,000 saltwater crocodiles roam the waterways.

Many of these are making their way into populated areas.

In 2005, 207 saltwater crocodiles were caught in Darwin Harbour. Four years ago, we was only gettin' around 100, so the numbers have undoubtedly increased, but the sizes of the animals have decreased.

And the reason the smaller crocs are being caught is because the larger ones are forcing them out of their territorial waters. Tom Nichols knows only too well how aggressive crocodiles can be.

Last year, two people died in the Top End after being attacked, and two years ago, a saltie bit off most of the fingers on his left hand. If you're in an area where saltwaters do habitat, there's a potential of always coming across an animal, so you can never become complacent. Tom Nichols receives calls at all hours from people reporting crocodiles. Only last Friday he was called to a property in Darwin's rural area - and this is what he found. There was a 1.5m saltie croc in their little spa.

She was only swimming in it last night, and thank goodness it wasn't in there, because if she had've jumped on top of it she would've known all about it. But crocodiles continue to draw the tourists, and that's expected to continue once the latest Australian horror film is released

about a rogue crocodile in a Top End national park. Kate Carter, ABC News, Darwin. Ricky Ponting and his deputy, Adam Gilchrist,

have given Australia some hope of winning the third cricket Test against South Africa at the SCG. Ponting scored a century in his 100th Test, while Gilchrist belted 86. A Brett Lee wicket to end the day has kept the contest alive with two days play remaining. Here's Rob Cross. Ricky Ponting has rarely indulged himself in soaking up the public's adulation. But on reaching a century in his 100th Test, Ponting became the first Australian to achieve the feat and he didn't hide his satisfaction. COMMENTATOR: So there is a century, a really good captain's knock.

He shared a 130-run partnership with Mike Hussey along the way, although the West Australian was given a reprieve by Aleem Dar. It's horrendously close to being LBW, if it isn't stone dead.

Graeme Smith threatened to explode, while Nel's reaction at abiding by the umpire's call

could be a handy lesson for Brett Lee, who's been reprimanded for questioning a decision on the opening day. Hussey eventually fell to Johan Botha's doosra, giving the spinner his first Test wicket. Ponting's shining example to his team-mates was ended on 120. The usually aggressive Andre Nel also showed a soft side. He certainly had the umpires on side with Symonds's wicket,

as the leg-before rulings continued to perplex. No wonder Andrew Symonds was mystified, that's going to miss leg stump by, well, take your pick. There was no doubt about Warne's wicket and Nel was on a hat-trick. Lee foiled him and continued to frustrate the Proteas. Lee and Gilchrist joining forces to ensure Australia passed the follow-on figure. Gilchrist was recapturing some lost form. Oh, he's hit that one. Sadly, though, another riveting day's cricket appeared to be marred by comments from the crowd directed at the feisty Nel. Lleyton Hewitt has survived an early scare to make a winning return to tournament play at the Adelaide International. Looking rusty after a 3-month lay-off, the world number four dropped the first set to the Czech Republic's Jan Hernych before advancing in three. The body feels great at the moment. It's just a matter of, you know, you're always going to be a bit edgy going out there after, you know, so many weeks off,

going out there and playing your first match again. Despite Samantha Stosur's best efforts, Australia is out of the running for the Hopman Cup after going down to the Netherlands last night. Stosur got the home team off to a winning start against Michaella Krajicek. But Todd Reid found Peter Wessels too sharp before the Dutch pair clinched the tie with a straight sets win in the mixed doubles. And former world number one Martina Hingis has beaten seventh seed Klara Koukalova to reach the quarterfinals at the Australian Women's Hardcourt titles.

The next stage of Australia's entry into the Asian Football Confederation has been completed. The draw for the qualifying rounds of the 2007 Asian Cup has been held in Kuala Lumpur, with the Socceroos set to play Bahrain, Lebanon and Kuwait. Australia's first match is in Bahrain on 22 February.

Former Melbourne Cup winner, Jeune, has died of heart failure at a Collingrove Stud at Nagambie. The horse won the cup and horse of the year in 1994 under trainer David Hayes. Jeune also had a successful stud career and sired Caulfield Cup winner, Mummify, and last year's Melbourne Cup runner up, On A Jeune. The horse itself won 10 races including four group 1 events. Jeune was 16 years old. Two cyclists injured in a training accident that claimed the life of Australian rider Amy Gillett returned to national competition in Melbourne today. Alexis Rhodes and Kate Nichols took their places at the head of the pack, as riders set off during the first day of the Bay Cycling Classic

in Melbourne. They joined the Bay Cycling Classic start line with mixed emotions.

Ames was one of my closest friends and I know she'd be really happy to see me back riding. It's less than six months since a young German driver lost control of her car and crashed into the Australian Institute of Sport women's road squad. Amy Gillett was killed. Alexis Rhodes was in a coma for a week. I think I broke nine vertebrae all up. I broke my nose, sternum, shoulder. I think I fractured four or five places in my hand. And I think I broke 12 or so ribs. Rhodes's determination continues to grow - at one stage, leading today's race. Alex has made me so proud in the last six months. She is the toughest person you will ever meet. Just very, very courageous.

A return to elite racing was laced with nerves for Kate Nichols. So many of the other girls came along and encouraged me during the race, which was fantastic. And yeah, definitely a big step in my recovery. Bandages hide Katie Brown's injuries. She remained trackside, but is hoping to join her team mates for a ride through Geelong's Botanical Gardens in honour of Amy Gillett. I'm waiting to see how I go, I might be able to ride this Saturday, 45km ride. So that's gonna be a big thing for me and I would like to do it just to show my support. Every day, you know, every day I miss Amy. It doesn't change from day to day. But it's good to catch up with some friends.

REPORTER: Is she here in spirit? Oh I think so, yep.

More than 2,000 cyclists are expected to take part

in the memorial ride. Money raised will support the foundation established in Amy Gillett's name. Trent Evans, ABC News. Canberra's Exhibition Park tarmac felt the heat today

with a taste of what's to come at this year's festival of the street machine - Summernats.

A modified military vehicle developed by Army apprentices was the first machine to burn rubber. It's based on a interim infantry mobility vehicle that the Army has. We have stripped it apart, made it shorter, we have fitted a 700-horsepower, 7-litre super-charged Chev motor. Mindful of the recent riots in Sydney, police are stepping up their presence this year. Given what's happened in Sydney,

it would be prudent of us to make sure that we do have enough police on

to make people feel safe. We have increased our patrols again - I can't go into details about how much,

but certainly you should see a lot of police on the streets. Summernats begins tomorrow. Time to check the weather now. And what a difference from New Year's Day! It was actually quite cool today, at least by comparison. In Sydney the top temperature to 3:00pm was 20 degrees,

but then it crept up to 21. 4 degrees by 5:30pm - that was 5 below the average.

Right now in Sydney -

the temperature is 21 degrees, 3 below average and the pressure is falling. Around NSW today, in the NE -

the State's top temperature was 41 degrees up at Collarenebri and Mungindi. There was some light rain about, but very little. In the SE, there were also some light showers about the coast and tablelands.

Perisher Valley was the coolest spot overnight, getting down to 1 degree. Inland -

very hot in the northern region. 38 at Bourke,

a little cooler in the south. In the 24 hours to 9:00 this morning, the top rainfall was 43mm at Kyogle on the northern rivers. In the six hours to 3:00 this afternoon,

the best was just 2mm at Katoomba on the Blue Mountains. In the capital cities today, it was mostly cloudy everywhere except Perth.

Cool in Hobart with a top of just 18. The satellite picture shows cloud building across the tropics in a moist atmosphere. There's cloud across the south in a jetstream and there's cloud across the Queensland/NSW border. On the synoptic chart - a weak trough is lingering over the eastern half of the continent

and there's another trough sitting over Western Australia. Rain tomorrow - showers and storms will continue

over Cape York Peninsula, the NT and WA.

Much of the east of NSW is also expecting showers. In the capital cities tomorrow - Canberra - clearing showers, Brisbane and Darwin - storms, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide - mostly sunny, Perth - hot. Around NSW - there are high fire danger warnings for many regions once again. In the NE, isolated showers with the chance of an afternoon thunderstorm,

warm with easterly winds.

In the SE, showers and drizzle on the coast and eastern ranges mainly in the morning. Warm with easterly winds. Inland - It'll be dry, sunny and hot.

Maybe a few clouds in the southern areas. Light to moderate SW to SE winds. In Sydney tomorrow -

early drizzle and then a shower or two. Quite a bit warmer than today though - a top of 25 in the city, 27 in the west. The sun will rise at 5:51am Seas will be 0.5m on a 2m swell. E/SE winds should get up to 15 knots. And over the next four days - showers right through to Sunday and tops in the mid-20s.

Now before we go, a quick look at tonight's top stories. The State's south-west and central coast have been declared natural disaster zones in the wake of the New Year's Day's bushfires.

And it's official - 2005 was the hottest year on record, and weather experts say the culprit is global warming.

And that's ABC News for this Wednesday. I'm Juanita Phillips. I'll be back with updates during the evening and the 'Late News' is along at 10:30pm Goodnight. Closed Captions produced by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd Welcome to the program. This program is captioned live.

Welcome to the program. We begin tonight with a story that questions Defence purchases. The quality of a soldier's kit can be the difference between life and death on the front line, so it's hardly surprising that diggers are vitally interested in how their gear will perform. Former Corporal Dane Simmonds was so concerned about the quality

of some of the equipment provided by the Defence Department

that he set up a web site to discuss its performance. It seems there's a lot to discuss. Of the Defence Department's $17.5 billion budget, 40% will be spent on clothing and equipment.