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Police Search for Missing in Australia Wildfires

  • VOA News

This aerial photo shows homes destroyed by a wildfire near Boomer Bay, in southern Australia, January 5, 2013.

This aerial photo shows homes destroyed by a wildfire near Boomer Bay, in southern Australia, January 5, 2013.

Raging wildfires are continuing to burn through southern Australia, where concerns are focused on about 100 people who may be missing.

Australian firefighters, using helicopter and planes, are battling the blazes across the state of Tasmania, where the fires flared Friday after a record summer heat wave that pushed temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius.

Acting Tasmanian Police Commissioner Scott Tilyard says in areas hit hardest by the fires, officials are trying to make sure that everyone is okay.

"We have teams on the ground now focusing particularly on Dunalley and Boomer Bay today going through the process of having to go door to door, literally on every fire-damaged property, some are shacks, some are houses, some are outbuildings, and confirming that there are no people who have lost their lives at that particular location," he said.

While officials are hopeful, Tasmanian Fire Service Chief Mike Brown says the battle is not yet over.

"The fact that we've got many, many kilometers, possibly hundreds of kilometers of uncontrolled fire in very remote and heavily forested country, is still going to be problematic for us over the next few days," he said.

Several communities were evacuated as the fires approached. Residents like Roger Sparrow, who escaped with his two daughters, said he was happy to get out alive.

"I can just see it [the fire]. It was like Usain Bolt - just, whoosh," he said.

Wildfires are common during the Australian summer. In February of 2009, hundreds of fires across Victoria state killed 173 people.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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