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Up to 100 people remain unaccounted for as devastating bushfires that have ravaged southern Tasmania continue to burn.
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 no deaths
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.
Burnt houses at Dunalley on the east coast of Tasmania after a bushfire ravaged the town. Photo: Peter Mathew
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 or authorities.
‘‘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 said.
Dunalley after the fire.
‘‘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 no deaths.’’
He said those yet to notify family or authorities should contact the National Registration and Inquiry Service or the Red Cross.
Pretty no more ... the charred remains of a car and houses at Dunalley on the east coast of Tasmania. Photo: Peter Mathew
Up to 2500 people have been evacuated from the Tasman Peninsula by boat, and another 400 were due to arrive in Hobart on Sunday night 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 said. ‘‘We just had to get out without anything.’’
More than 100 properties went up in Dunalley and nearby communities. The hills were black, vegetation scorched to the sea. And the threat remained. Photo: Peter Mathew
Most praised the efforts of emergency workers after thousands lined up on the beach at Nubeena to catch ferries at late as 2am 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 on Sunday.
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 return.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard was expected to visit Tasmania on Monday and Prince Charles sent a statement of support.
Tasmania Fire Service 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.
The Red Cross launched a Tasmanian Bushfires 2013 Appeal, and encouraged Australians to give generously.
Donations can be made at www.redcross.org.au or by calling 1800 811 700.