Heat-spawned fires rage across Tasmania

Jan. 5, 2013 at 8:31 AM
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HOBART, Australia, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Fires raging across Tasmania have razed more than 100 properties, with some residents stranded in evacuation centers or on beaches, officials say.

Some 40 fires are burning, with the small community of Dunalley, east of the capital Hobart, experiencing the worst of the destruction, the BBC reported Friday.

"Thirty or 40 percent" of the properties there were consumed in the fires, Tasmanian Fire Services chief officer Mike Brown told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Further north, near Bicheno, some residents in the Courland Bay area were left with nothing, said tour operator Nick Wardlaw.

"They've got out with basically just the clothes on their backs and nothing else," he said.

People stranded on the Tasman Peninsula, which had been cut off by the fires, were being taken back to Hobart by ferry.

Acting Tasmania Premier Bryan Green flew over the peninsula by helicopter and later said "the catastrophic nature of the weather meant that many houses burnt well and truly before the front. There was really nothing people could do with respect to managing that other than to protect people and usher them to safe places."

The fires began during a record-breaking heat wave, high winds and drought in Tasmania and southern Australia. Earlier, temperatures in Hobart had reached 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

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