Australia bushfires: Tasmania search for 100 'missing'

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Many homes have been destroyed by the fires

Australian police are searching fire-ravaged towns in southern Tasmania looking for 100 unaccounted people.

Tasmania's police commissioner said he feared lives may have been lost in the wildfires which swept through parts of the island in recent days.

Almost 3,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, many stranded in emergency shelters.

On Friday, Tasmania experienced its peak temperature since records began with levels hitting 41.8C.

The national weather bureau has warned extremely hot conditions are expected across much of the country next week.

Acting Tasmania Police Commissioner Scott Tilyard said about 100 remained unaccounted for.

"That's not to say that those people necessarily have come to any harm, but obviously we can't totally eliminate that until we've had confirmed contact with those individuals," Mr Tilyard said.

He said the crews, whose numbers have been swelled by relief teams from mainland Australia, were expecting to find "one or more" people who had perished in the fires.

More than 40 fires are still burning. On Sunday, firefighters issued an emergency warning for residents of Taranna, 29 miles (47km) east of the state capital, Hobart, where a fire has been burning for more than three days.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is due to tour Dunalley on Monday, where more than 65 homes, the police station and a school have been destroyed in the small town, 56km east of Hobart.

The BBC's Nick Bryant, in Sydney, says large swathes of south-east Australia are suffering from the worst fire conditions since the Black Saturday disaster almost four years ago, when 173 people in rural Victoria lost their lives.

He says there has been a combination of a record-breaking heatwave, high winds and drought, with Tasmania by far the worst hit.

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