5 Jan 2013

Bushfires rage across Australia

5:54 am on 5 January 2013

Police in Tasmania are trying to confirm that at least one person has died in a bushfire that has isolated a peninsula in the south east of the state.

Hundreds of residents have been evacuated from the Tasman Peninsula and others are stranded there as large uncontained blazes rage at three different locations.

One has cut off the Arthur Highway which runs to the Port Arthur historic site on the Peninsula.

Fire authorities say at least 65 buildings including many homes and the local primary school have been destroyed in the small town of Dunalley.

Tasmania's chief fire officer Mike Brown says the hot weather and strong winds are expected to last until midnight on Friday, but unfortunately no rain is forecast and there could be some lightning activity.

Firefighters are also battling bushfires in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

The ABC reports that in South Australia, which has had temperatures above 45 degrees, there are concerns surrounding two fires.

In Victoria, where a total fire ban is in place, fires in at least two locations are burning out of control.

Acting Premier Peter Ryan says the state is much better prepared than it was for the Black Saturday fires nearly four years ago.

In Queensland, fire crews are on high alert with severe conditions covering much of the state west of the Great Dividing Range.

Thirteen blazes are burning across the state, but no property is at risk.

In New South Wales, a bushfire just south of Forster on the state's mid-north coast has forced the closure of The Lakes Way.

Countrywide, the average temperature on Wednesday was 39.21 degrees, just below the record of 40.7 set in December of 1972.

Hobart on Friday recorded a temperatures of 41.3 degrees - its highest temperature in 120 years of record keeping.

The hottest place so far has been Eucla, on the Western Australian border, where it reached 48.1 degrees on Thursday afternoon, its hottest day on record and 22 degrees above the summer average.