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Tasmania wildfires: Police in Australia begin search for missing as heat wave persists (PHOTOS)

Police fear people may have died in the wildfires that swept through the Australian island state, destroying buildings and forcing thousands to flee.

More than 40 wildfires continued to rage in the Australian island state of Tasmania on Sunday as police began property-to-property searches for 100 people who remain unaccounted for, Reuters reported.

The blazes, which began Thursday amid a fierce heat wave and strong winds, destroyed at least 100 buildings and forced thousands to flee.

Reuters reported that the fast-moving fires slowed over the weekend as temperatures eased, but weather forecasters expect extremely hot conditions to return this week to island.

Police and troops are searching burned-out vehicles and homes in the towns worst hit by the fires, including Dunalley, where about 70 homes were destroyed, the Agence France-Presse reported.

Other towns badly affected by the fires include Boomer Bay and Marion Bay.

Acting Tasmania police commissioner Scott Tilyard said there were fears for the dozens of people yet to contact their families or authorities, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

‘‘It’s not to say those people have necessarily come to harm, but we can’t totally eliminate that until we have contact with those individuals,’’ Tilyard was quoted as saying.

‘‘But we have to brace ourselves for the fact we may locate one or more deceased people.

‘‘There are a lot of premises that need to be checked. Until we’ve had the opportunity to check every one of those locations we won’t be in a position to confirm there has been no deaths.’’

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

Extreme heat affected much of Australia last week, with 80 percent of the country recording temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

According to Bloomberg, it was the “most wide-ranging heat wave in more than a decade.”

More from GlobalPost: Tasmania wildfires cause thousands to flee

 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/130106/tasmania-wildfires-police-australia-begin-search-missing-heat-wave-persists