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Thousands Flee Wildfires in Southern Australia

Smoke from wildfires is seen east of Hobart in the Australian island state of Tasmania January 4, 2013.
Australian authorities say thousands of people have fled wildfires raging through southern Australia, with one blaze destroying dozens of homes in the southern island state of Tasmania.

The fires flared on Friday amid a record summer heat wave that pushed temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius in Tasmania, which is normally known for its cooler climate.

Tasmania police estimate that as of late Saturday, at least 70 percent of the buildings in and around the small community of Dunalley, about 55 kilometers east of the state capital, Hobart, had been destroyed.

Officials are investigating a report that one person has died in the blaze, but police say that so far no deaths have been confirmed.

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

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