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Tasmanian bushfire beaten back as no deaths recorded

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Hobart correspondent for Fairfax Media

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Gutted ... fire has ripped through Dunalley, in Tasmania, destroying about 100 homes.

Gutted ... fire has ripped through Dunalley, in Tasmania, destroying about 100 homes. Photo: Peter Mathew

A bushfire ravaging south-eastern Tasmania has been beaten back from the holiday town of Taranna, but still burned along much of its Tasman Peninsula front.

Water-bombing helicopters and bulldozers kept the fire away from the waterside community of about 100 after the fire jumped over a bay and took hold in thick bush on Sunday night, Taranna resident Peter Wilson said

"The breeze dropped, and we haven't lost any houses," Mr Wilson said.

The Tasmanian Fire Service said the fire remained out of control, but its progress had slowed considerably in the calmer weather and they expected to work on control lines today.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is expected to visit the scene of the fire, which tore through the town of Dunalley, and nearby hamlets in catastrophic conditions on Friday, burning on to affect a total 13 communities.

Police held grave fears for a handful of people unaccounted for on Sunday, and emergency services teams are continuing their search of burnt out buildings for people lost.

Inspector John Arnold said on Monday that to date, no fatality had been recorded. "We certainly think it may be a possibility down the track," he told local ABC radio.

Inspector Arnold said a total of 100 names on missing persons registries was likely to include a lot of duplication on different lists.

More than 100 properties have been destroyed, but the Insurance Council of Australia is yet to estimate the total cost of the fires, which also burned properties near Bicheno on the state's east coast.

Hobart was blanketed in bushfire smoke, much of it from a 60,000 ha. fire that was burning through Tasmania's south-west wilderness.

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