Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tasmania wildfires destroy 80 buildings

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SYDNEY, Australia -- Australian officials battled a series of wildfires amid scorching temperatures across the country today, with one blaze destroying dozens of homes in the island state of Tasmania.

Tasmania police said around 80 buildings were destroyed in and around the small town of Dunalley, east of the Tasmanian capital of Hobart, including the town's school, police station and bakery.

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Officials had been investigating a report that one person died in the blaze on Friday, but on Saturday, police said there were no confirmed deaths or injuries from the fire.

Wildfires were raging across southern Australia amid blistering temperatures and high winds. The temperature in Hobart reached a record high of nearly 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) on Friday. Conditions had eased across much of the region on Saturday, but fire officials warned that the danger from some of the fires remained high.

"We reached catastrophic fire danger ratings at times during this afternoon," Tasmania Fire Service Chief Officer Mike Brown told reporters on Friday. "I don't think we're quite out of the woods yet."

Wildfires are common during the Australian summer. In February 2009, hundreds of fires across Victoria state killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 5, 2013 A21

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