Tasmania fires: rescue crews speak of horror

Northern volunteer firefighters who helped defend the southern Tasmania town of Dunalley against bushfire yesterday say they would not be surprised if people perished in the blaze.

Deputy police Commissioner Scott Tilyard said this morning that a ''handful'' of people were missing and feared dead in the Tasman Peninsula fires.

Other sources say as many as six people could have died, but so far no deaths have been confirmed.

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Carrick fire brigade first officer Greg Cain said it was the worst fire he had seen in 23 years of firefighting.

''Once the fire front had gone through we had reports of people still trapped in their houses,'' Mr Cain said.

''They sent us off to try and see how they were but we couldn't get through to them because of power lines and trees all over the road.

''Hopefully they survived.''

Rocherlea fire brigade volunteer Laura Smith said people were not prepared for the speed or ferocity of the fire.

''I wouldn't be surprised if there were deaths,'' Ms Smith said.

 Northern police Inspector John Ward said reports that a person had died in the Bicheno fire were false.

''We are not looking for any person here, we have no reports of missing persons and we have no suggestions that anyone is missing in Bicheno,'' Inspector Ward said.

Police and members of the Australian Defence Force are searching 60 properties near Dunalley today.


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