Thousands of residents and tourists are stranded across parts of Tasmania after bushfires destroyed more than 100 properties and cut off communities.
The bushfire threat has been downgraded but authorities are warning residents to remain on alert as fires continue to burn.
There are two watch and act warnings current for fires at Forcett and Lake Repulse.
Boats have been ferrying residents and tourists from the peninsula to Hobart.
Hobart Lord Mayor Damon Thomas says the City Hall has been opened up as an evacuation centre.
“Those people will be met by the Red Cross and other support agencies and there’s a whole range of support services, including emergency accommodation,” he said.
“And look there’s other things like clothing because we know that some of those travellers have had a rough trip up and they want a change of gear.”
The town of Dunalley, east of Hobart, was worst hit by the fires on Friday and 65 properties as well as the local school have been destroyed.
Tasmanian Fire Services chief officer Mike Brown says the devastation is tragic to see.
“I think the estimate is that 30 or 40 per cent of properties in Dunalley have been lost in the fire,” he said.
“It’s a little difficult to estimate at the moment just which of those have been homes and which have been outbuildings, but we certainly witnessed a lot of damage and destruction in Dunalley.”
Ike Kelly owns the local sawmill which was destroyed in the blaze.
“It’s destroyed $4 or $5 million worth of business. Fifty years of my life, gone,” he said.
Fifteen homes have gone at Boomer Bay, 20 at Murdunna and about 40 per cent of the properties at Conelley’s Marsh have been damaged or destroyed.
Nick Wardlaw runs Penguin Tours further north near Bicheno and says some residents in the Courland Bay area have lost everything after bushfires there.
“They’ve got out with basically just the clothes on their backs and nothing else and they’re at the moment camping with friends,” he said.
Hundreds are still sheltering in evacuation centres in fire-affected parts of the states.
Some stranded residents at the Sorell evacuation centre say there is an urgent need for baby formula and food.
Two community refuge centres have been set up at Bicheno and Swansea to house evacuees and there is an evacuation centre at Nubeena
Tasmania’s Acting Premier Bryan Green took a flight over the Tasman Peninsula on Saturday and says he saw many houses destroyed around Dunalley.
“It was very difficult to see, because of the smoke, what’s happening in other centres, although we did witness some houses burning close to Eaglehawk Neck as we flew over,” he said.
“This is obviously clearly a devastating fire in itself and of course there are other fires burning around the state that we are working on.”
Mr Green thanked emergency crews and those who had operated ferries and boats to evacuate those stranded on the Tasman Peninsula.
“The flight today confirmed once again that yesterday, the catastrophic nature of the weather meant that many houses burnt well and truly before the front,” he said.
“There was really nothing people could do with respect to managing that other than to protect people and usher them to safe places.
“Given that it’s been reported to me that yesterday’s events were worse by degree than the ’67 bushfires, that the way our emergency services have managed this situation has been outstanding,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Port Arthur Historic site on Tasmania’s Tasman Peninsula could be closed for up to a week.
Chief executive Stephen Large says he has been told it is likely to be that long before power is restored.
Mr Large says there is limited mobile phone coverage on a nearby hill but there are no landlines or power.
“That is a distinct possibility unless we can get adequate generators to run the site and obviously provide the sort of experience we want to,” he said.
“Without power it’s impossible to run the site and ensure the safety of visitors.”Source: ABC News “Tragic scenes as fires destroy homes across Tas”
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- Tasmanian bushfire damage grows (smh.com.au)
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