HOBART – Tasmanian police say they are not able to confirm reports of a death in a huge bushfire in the state’s south that has already destroyed homes, a school and an RSL club.
They say up to 65 buildings could have been damaged or destroyed in the small community of Dunalley, 56km south-east of Hobart.
They include the local school, RSL club, service station and houses, the ABC reported.
Around 15 houses at nearby Boomer Bay could also have been lost as the impact of catastrophic fire conditions in southern Tasmania begins to emerge.
Tasmania Police commissioner Scott Tilyard said no death had been confirmed.
“It really has the status of a rumour at this stage,” he said.
But as a police boat was being sent to rescue people taking refuge on the waterfront at the top of the Tasman Peninsula, damage to property was becoming clearer.
“Reports are of anything up to about 65 buildings may have been impacted by the fire and that is the area where there has been an unconfirmed report that possibly there might have been one life lost,” Mr Tilyard said.
Around 50 people were awaiting the arrival of the police vessel to help them evacuate but were safe, he said.
Huge plumes of smoke were visible from Hobart yesterday as the island capital sweltered through its hottest day on record.
Accompanying winds whipped up the two largest blazes that had started on Thursday; at Forcett, near Dunalley, and Lake Repulse near Mt Field National Park north-west of Hobart.
On a day Hobart hit a top temperature of 41.8C – smashing the previous record of 40.8 set in 1976 – up to 40 fires were burning around the state.
A mild southerly change was due in Hobart around midnight after conditions considered worse than 2006-7 when houses were lost on the state’s east coast.
The change is unlikely to bring rain, but could ignite more fires with lightning strikes, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
● Victoria has sweltered through its hottest day in several years, with firefighters kept busy.
A 200-hectare fire in a pine plantation in the state’s far south-west was the biggest concern for authorities, who sent in waterbombing aircraft.
Across the state more than 30 smaller fires, fanned by strong northerly winds, kept crews busy.
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said a blaze at Mt Richmond was of most concern to authorities.
Nearly 20 fire tankers, two planes and two helicopters battled the blaze, which began about 3pm.
A late afternoon wind change moved the fire into an easterly direction. Authorities also battled a large fire in Kalimna West, near Lakes Entrance in Victoria’s south-east.