UPDATE 8pm: Tasmania's two major bushfires have been downgraded. The fire at Bicheno is no longer threatening communities and is of low to moderate danger, the Tasmania Fire Service says. A fire at Forcett, east of Hobart, has been downgraded to "Watch and Act" level.
A flotilla of boats is the lifeline for thousands of people stranded on the Tasman Peninsula as bushfires continue to rage out of control.
People are braced for a second night of bushfire horror with two major blazes, which have emergency warnings, threatening more homes and businesses.
Recreational and commercial vessels are being used to bring in thousands of meals and other essential supplies and to evacuate people most in need.
Police said on Saturday that 600 people, many of them visitors to the area, were set to spend a second night at convict ruins. There were 2000 people at a temporary refuge in Nubeena and another 100 at the Dunalley Hotel.
The road into the peninsula, the Arthur Highway, has been closed since Friday.
Boats delivered 3000 meals as well as fuel, water and health workers. A generator was being sought as power is out in much of the area.
Acting Police Commissioner Scott Tilyard said he was hopeful some vehicles could be escorted from the peninsula.
He said tourists were obviously keen to get out.
It had been ‘‘a long night for many people but the main thing is that they have been safe’’, he said.
Up to 1000 people were reported to have been taken out by boat overnight, but police could not confirm the number.
‘‘I would imagine there’ll be numerous stories about the heroic and risky approaches that were taken out there,’’ Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) chief commissioner Mike Brown said.
Although conditions had eased after record temperatures on Friday, firefighters were facing serious fires on two fronts on Saturday evening.
The TFS had upgraded a bushfire burning between Forcett, southeast of Hobart, and the Tasman Peninsula to a ‘‘very high’’ emergency warning level.
A second serious blaze cut off parts of Tasmania’s east coast, with the holiday town of Coles Bay isolated on Saturday afternoon.
More than a dozen properties had been lost south of Bicheno, with more than a 100 feared lost overall.
Victoria was planning to send 65 firefighters to help on Saturday night.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard threw the federal government’s support behind the firefighting and support efforts in Tasmania and said disaster assistance would start flowing in coming days.
‘‘My message is there’s only one you,’’ Ms Gillard told ABC radio.
‘‘Everything else in life, at the end of the day, no matter how precious, can be replaced.’’
Insurers declared the bushfire-hit towns a catastrophe and police powers were increased when the Tasman Peninsula was declared a serious-incident site.
Electricity company Aurora said it could take several weeks to restore power in some areas, with 300 poles down on the Tasman Peninsula.
Property losses have been huge, with 30 per cent of the buildings in the small community of Dunalley destroyed, including the school and police station.
At Connellys Marsh, 40 per cent of the buildings are gone, along with three houses at Copping and several at Primrose Sands.
Twenty houses have been lost around Murdunna and there are reports of more at Eaglehawk Neck.
No deaths or serious injuries have been confirmed, despite conditions comparable to 1967 when 2000 homes and 62 lives were lost.
‘‘Until we have the opportunity to get in and literally go through property by property we can’t confirm there hasn’t been one or more deaths,’’ Mr Tilyard said.
‘‘That is a time-consuming process that has to be done thoroughly and safely.’’
A fire in the Derwent Valley, north-west of Hobart, was affecting the communities of Ellendale and Karanja, with several properties believed lost.
Lawrenny and Hamilton were also in danger on Saturday evening.
The TFS was being inundated with offers of support.
‘‘All donations are greatly appreciated. However, we would prefer donations that will assist those who have been affected be directed to the appropriate welfare providers,’’ a statement said.
People concerned about relatives and friends can call a police hotline on 1800 567 567.
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter