7 Jan 2013

Gillard moves to support embattled "firies"

6:16 pm on 7 January 2013

Australia's prime minister has told bushfire-hit Tasmanians the nation is standing by them "in every way" as a makeshift flotilla ferries supplies into the cut-off Tasman Peninsula.

Ms Gillard says the bushfire danger is not over in Tasmania and residents need to remain alert, listen to authorities and act to keep themselves safe, the BBC reports.

Julia Gillard spoke alongside the state Premier, Lara Giddings, ahead of a trip to the township of Dunalley, which was devastated by fire on Friday.

At the weekend, police had about 100 people listed as missing, but the number is reducing as people are found safe.

No bodies have been found so far in searches of almost 250 burnt-out properties, the ABC reports.

About 65 people are continuing to sift through the remains of buildings and cars, concentrating on the more densely-forested area south of Dunalley to Murdunna and Sommers Bay.

Ms Gillard expressed concern for firefighters - commonly known in Australia a "firies" - battling fatigue.

Ms Gillard toured a control centre, stopping to talk to staff, and also thanked firefighters who had come from Victoria to lend support to their Tasmanian colleagues.

Ms Gillard later told reporters in Hobart the firefighters were 'showing great Australian mateship'.

She said the nation was standing with Tasmanians at this difficult time.

'To all of those people, we are thinking of you in moments of grief and despair,' she said.

'A number of people know their home has been destroyed but as yet for safety reasons they haven't been able to ... see the damage for themselves.'

Ms Gillard said she had met Victorian firefighters who were returning the favour to their Tasmanian counterparts, who helped them out in the 2009 blazes.

Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings warned the fire danger was not over.

'It's very important people remain vigilant,' she said.

Many residents from Dunalley know their homes have been destroyed and are frustrated that authorities have locked them out because of safety concerns.

But the prime minister urged people to obey the instructions of emergency services.

'I understand the frustration of people who want to get back to see what's happened to their home,' Ms Gillard said.

'The thing that would be worse ... would be to try to go and see it and get hurt doing so.'

Safety was the priority, she said.

Ms Gillard said the nation had learned a lot about how to manage bushfires from the major events in the ACT and Victoria in recent years, and this was being demonstrated in the Tasmanian fires.

'We live with this risk and we need to have the best systems to manage it.

'I'm satisfied our emergency services right around our nation share information and share lessons learned so they can improve for the next time.'

Ms Giddings rejected suggestions efforts to combat the blazes had been hampered by state government budget restraints.

'Resources have been on foot,' she said.

She flagged a review of the bushfire response at a later date but said the focus now was on fighting fires and helping families.

The press conference abruptly ended because firefighters needed to get access to a fire truck.