Police say fires may have claimed lives

Bushfires in southern Tasmanian may have claimed a number of lives, police say.

There are no confirmed deaths as a result of the bushfires on the Tasman Peninsula, but police and defence services personnel will begin searching for bodies on Sunday.

Acting Police Commissioner Scott Tilyard said a number of people remained missing.

‘We’re hoping very much along with everyone else that there won’t be (any deaths), but we need to go through the process to confirm that there hasn’t been,’ he told reporters in Hobart.

‘If you have a house or a shack that burns to the ground that there’s quite a thorough examination that needs to happen to confirm that there is definitely no deceased person in there.’

More than 1000 people have been evacuated from the peninsula to Hobart via boat, with the final ferryload of 180 people departing Nubeena for the capital early on Sunday morning.

Hundreds more have sought refuge with relatives and in evacuation centres across the region, including at the Port Arthur historic site.

The threat posed to communities by the Forcett bushfire was downgraded to watch and act, but the blaze continues to burn out of control, and has already done massive damage throughout the peninsula.

The town of Dunalley was the worst hit, with around 65 homes and the town’s school destroyed, while dozens more buildings were razed at Connellys Marsh, Eaglehawk Neck, Murdunna, Copping and Primrose Sands.

Mr Tilyard said there was a ‘distinct possibility’ lives had been lost.

‘Until we actually complete the process of checking everywhere, we won’t be able to confirm that there’s been no deaths or serious injuries,’ he said.

‘It was a very dangerous situation on Friday, very fast moving fire.

‘Certainly we’ve got concerns about people who haven’t made contact with loved ones or friends, but they are very much our priority.’

Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) chief fire officer Mike Brown said a bushfire near Bicheno had destroyed between 10 and 15 homes, and burned around 7000 hectares.

The Bicheno fire continues to burn out of control and the town’s main access route, Coles Bay Road, was closed again after briefly reopening on Sunday morning.

Mr Brown said the TFS was hopeful of getting the fire under control within the next 48 hours.

He said crews were having trouble accessing parts of the Tasman Peninsula as they battled to bring the Forcett fire under control.

‘There is still some problems getting fire vehicles into the Tasman Peninsula to work more on protecting properties and protecting assets,’ he said.

Courtesy: Sky News Australia

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