Australia woman disfigured by bushfire during marathon gets $11m

SYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian woman who was severely disfigured in a bushfire during an ultra-marathon has settled her claim against the race organisers, reportedly for A$10 million (S$11.7 million).

Ms Turia Pitt was left with horrific burns to 65 per cent of her body after the fire roared through the 2011 Racing the Planet 100-kilometre event in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Her lawyer Greg Walsh said on Friday that the former model and engineer, who underwent numerous surgeries for her injuries and has spent A$3 million in medical treatment, was "very happy" at settling out of court with the Hong Kong-based organisers.

"Turia is very relieved and very happy that the matter has finally been settled, and she can put this behind her," Mr Walsh told AFP. "It's not about recrimination or blaming others, it's about getting on with her life. It's a long battle. She's been under a lot of stress."

He would not comment on the size of the payout, but the West Australian newspaper said it was about A$10 million.

Mr Walsh said the money "will help a lot" as Ms Pitt, 26, still needed more surgeries. She was badly disfigured by the blaze that trapped her in a gorge and had to wear a compression suit over her face, neck and body. She also lost four fingers and a thumb

Ms Kate Sanderson, another runner who was seriously hurt during the race, had her left foot amputated due to the burns and reportedly settled with Racing the Planet last year in a separate arrangement.

Both women received "act of grace" payments of A$450,000 each from the West Australian government in 2012 after an official inquiry found "critical shortcomings" by the organisers.

The inquiry found that Racing the Planet had been aware of fires in the area ahead of the race but had failed to consult the proper authorities about whether the course should be moved or the event cancelled. The race featured 41 runners from countries including Malaysia and South Africa, with the majority from Australia.

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