A house destroyed by a bushfire is seen in ruins in Dunalley, about 40km east of Hobart. Photo by Reuters
Up to 100 people remain unaccounted for as devastating
bushfires that have ravaged southern Tasmania continue to
Police are conducting painstaking property-to-property
searches in the worst hit towns of Dunalley, Boomer Bay and
Marion Bay as they fear lives may have been lost.
More than 100 buildings have been destroyed by the fires,
which continue to burn out of control in several areas of the
state but no deaths have yet been confirmed.
Acting Police Commissioner Scott Tilyard said there were
grave fears for many people yet to make contact with family
"It's not to say those people have necessarily come to harm,
but we can't totally eliminate that until we have contact
with those individuals," Mr Tilyard told reporters.
"But we have to brace ourselves for the fact we may locate
one or more deceased people.
"There are a lot of premises that need to be checked. Until
we've had the opportunity to check every one of those
locations we won't be in a position to confirm there has been
He said those yet to notify family or authorities should
contact the National Registration and Inquiry Service or the
Up to 2500 people have been evacuated from the Tasman
Peninsula by boat, and another 400 were due to arrive in
Hobart tonight with the Arthur Highway still closed.
At a refuge centre in Hobart's City Hall, Dunalley resident
Patricia McCauley said she was relieved to get her
92-year-old mother-in-law out but had lost everything.
"We didn't have time to get frightened," she told AAP.
"We just had to get out without anything."
Most praised the efforts of emergency workers after thousands
lined up on the beach at Nubeena to catch ferries at late as
2am (AEDT) on Sunday.
"It got a little bit chaotic because everyone was getting a
bit cranky about who had been there the longest," a Sydney
woman who wished only to be known as Kathy said.
"Naturally they said women, children and elderly first."
Mr Tilyard said police were investigating whether an escorted
convoy of cars could be brought out of the peninsula on the
highway before dark today.
Interstate fire crews had begun arriving in Tasmania as four
fires which have burnt out around 60,000 hectares continued
to cause concern.
The Tasman Peninsula's Forcett blaze was upgraded again to
the highest level on Sunday evening, with the community of
Taranna being told to evacuate.
Two fires in the Derwent Valley and one on the east coast
were at the watch and act level.
Another massive fire had burnt out a further 60,000 hectares
in the state's remote southwest, where several bushwalkers
had been airlifted to safety.
The state government announced financial assistance and
premier Lara Giddings was cutting short an overseas visit to
Prime Minister Julia Gillard was expected to visit Tasmania
tomorrow and Prince Charles sent a statement of support.
Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) chief fire officer Mike Brown
said crews were having trouble accessing parts of the Tasman
Peninsula and there was no time frame on when the fire would
be brought under control.
"That's really the $6 million question because it's going to
take quite some time," he said.
"Our predictions over the next week is that temperatures will
warm up a bit."
Dunalley was the worst hit, with around 65 homes and the
town's school destroyed, while dozens more buildings were
razed at Connellys Marsh, Eaglehawk Neck, Murdunna, Copping
and Primrose Sands.
Mr Brown said a bushfire near Bicheno had destroyed between
10 and 15 homes.