Page last updated at 02:27 GMT, Sunday, 22 February 2009

Princess Anne in bushfire tribute

Princess Anne at the ceremony
Princess Anne represented the Queen at the ceremony

Princess Anne has paid tribute to all those affected by Australia's bushfires as she joined a day of mourning for the more than 200 people who died.

She told a remembrance ceremony in Melbourne communities had responded with "courage and selflessness".

The Princess Royal was acting as the Queen's representative at the event.

She will go on to visit Melbourne's bushfires emergency control centre and travel to some of the areas devastated by the blazes.

Australia is holding a day of mourning for what it calls Black Saturday.

At least 209 people died in the worst bushfires in Australia's living memory which swept through Victoria on 7 February.

Individuals and towns have responded with resilience, ingenuity, courage and selflessness to situations that were changing at terrifying speed
Princess Anne

The blazes also destroyed hundreds of properties and left thousands of people homeless.

Australia has launched its biggest-ever arson investigation into their cause. One man has already been charged with starting one of the fires and police suspect arson in at least one other case.

Princess Anne told the remembrance ceremony: "Individuals and towns have responded with resilience, ingenuity, courage and selflessness to situations that were changing at terrifying speed.

"People from around Australia and across the world watched in horror but with admiration at their response. "

'Solemn contract'

The service at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena was also attended by Australian dignitaries and both fire survivors and rescue personnel.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told the mourners the government was committed to rebuilding the communities devastated by the disaster.

"What we have seen in each of these communities is resilience writ large. Resilience reflected in the absolute and resolute determination to rebuild," he said.

"And this is where the nation comes in: a solemn contract with each of these communities to rebuild. Brick by brick, home by home, school by school, church by church, street by street, community by community."

The Queen has already made a private donation to a fundraising appeal helping the victims of the fires.

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