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Tasmania wildfires cause thousands to flee

Wildfires in Tasmania caused by record temperatures have destroyed at least 100 homes.

Australia brushfiresEnlarge
The landscape is scorched following bush fires which raged throughout Prevally and Gnarabup, on November 25, 2011 in Margaret River, Australia. 4000 hectares of forest and over 30 properties have been destroyed as bush fires continue to burn around Western Australia. (Kerris Berrington/AFP/Getty Images)

Wildfires in Tasmania sparked on Friday by record temperatures have destroyed at least 100 homes and caused thousands of people to flee.

Though the fires have been downgraded, officials have warned residents to stay on alert, as several brushfires continue to burn, ABC News Australia reported.

"While the weather has eased off and given us some opportunity to do something about it... it's going to take a long time and a lot of work to properly contain these fires," said Tasmania Fire Service chief officer Mike Brown, according to ABC News. "People have got to still be aware there's a risk and still keep themselves abreast of the latest information through media outlets or from our website." 

The Tasman Highway, which was closed due to the bushfires, has been reopened, since there are no more emergency warnings issued, according to the Australian.  

Among the worst affected areas on the Australian island is Dunalley, which lost its police station and school in the blaze. Police officers estimate one in three of the community's buildings were razed, the Telegraph reported

Many residents were stranded on Tasmania's peninsula, which had been cut off from the rest of the island by the blazes, according to UPI. Those stranded were brought back to Hobart by ferry on Saturday. 

"The catastrophic nature of the weather meant that many houses burnt well," said Acting Tasmania Premier Bryan Green, who flew over the peninsula by helicopter to survey the damage. "There was really nothing people could do with respect to managing that other than to protect people and usher them to safe places."

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard pledged support from the federal government for firefighting and support efforts, and promised disaster assistance within the next few days, the Australian reported. 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/politics/aid/130105/tasmania-wildfires-damage-homes-thousands-flee