Smoke from a bushfire billows over hills near Forcett, about 25km east of Hobart. Photo by Reuters
Parts of Tasmania's east coast have been cut off by bushfires
as a blaze on the Tasman Peninsula continues to burn out of
The east coast holiday town of Coles Bay was isolated on
Saturday afternoon by a fire the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS)
has upgraded to "very high risk" emergency warning.
More than a dozen properties have been lost south of Bicheno,
and Coles Bay Road, south of Apsley River, and the Tasman
Highway, south of Tower Hill, are at risk.
The Tasman Peninsula fire that claimed at least 80 properties
and left thousands of people isolated on Friday night was
still burning out of control on Saturday afternoon.
The main access road, the Arthur Highway, remained closed.
Police and commercial boats were being used to ferry in
supplies and ferry out people most in need.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the federal government was
supporting the fire effort.
"We are working with the state government to support people
and make sure that they get through," Ms Gillard told ABC
"My message is there's only one you.
"Everything else in life at the end of the day, no matter how
precious, can be replaced.
"What can't be replaced is a human life."
Insurers declared the bushfire-hit towns a catastrophe and
police powers were increased when the Tasman Peninsula was
declared a serious-incident site.
The Insurance Industry Council of Australia's declaration
included the towns of Dunalley, Connellys Marsh, Forcett,
Copping, Murdunna, Boomer Bay, Primrose Sands, Susans Bay,
Eaglehawk Neck and Taranna.
Electricity company Aurora told people whose power had been
cut off to expect delays of several weeks before it was
restored. About 300 poles were down on the Tasman Peninsula.
Property losses from the peninsula fire have been huge, with
30 per cent of the buildings in the small community of
Dunalley, 55km southeast of Hobart, destroyed. These included
the school, police station and bakery.
At Connellys Marsh, 40 per cent of the buildings are gone,
including three houses at Copping and several at Primrose
Twenty houses have been lost around Murdunna.
Several thousand people, many of them tourists, are stranded
with access roads closed.
Around 700 are taking refuge at the Port Arthur historic
site, another 2000 at a community centre at Nubeena and more
than 50 at the Dunalley pub.
Up to 1000 people were reported to have been rescued from
beaches by boat overnight, but police could not confirm the
They said boats had ferried in 3000 meals as well as fuel,
water and medical assistance.
"Where we possibly could, we were moving people out by vessel
overnight," Acting Commissioner Scott Tilyard told reporters
"The vast majority of people still remain down there."
No deaths or serious injuries have been confirmed.
A fire in the Derwent Valley northwest of Hobart was
affecting the communities of Ellendale and Karanja, but the
extent of property damage was unknown.
Conditions across southern Tasmania on Saturday were cooler
than on Friday, when Hobart reached 41.8C - its hottest since
record keeping began in 1883.
State fire chief Mike Brown said similar conditions in 1967
had resulted in the loss of 2000 homes and 62 lives.
"I would imagine there'll be numerous stories about the
heroic and risky approaches that were taken out there," he
"The big outcome for us ... is that at the moment there looks
to be no loss of life or injuries."
He said this was because of the way "we put out our warnings,
and clearly a lot of people did heed those warnings".
People concerned about relatives and friends can call a
police hotline on 1800 567 567.