Police optimistic over Tasmanian fires

Burnt houses at Dunalley.Hopes are rising that despite some devastating property loss, Tasmania’s bushfires will prove to be fatality free.

Five days after a bushfire tore through communities east of Hobart, police acting commissioner Scott Tilyard said police had not received any official missing persons reports.

“At this point, more than 2,200 individuals have been identified as safe and well,” Mr Tilyard said on Wednesday.

“My advice is there are no reports of missing persons in circumstances that cause us to have grave fears for their safety at this time.”

Emergency services screened 731 properties in and around the worst-hit town of Dunalley, including 126 damaged or destroyed by fire, without finding any human remains.

Searches are continuing with the aid of a contingent of Victoria Police sworn in as special constables, and the preliminary screening is expected to be completed later on Wednesday.

As losses are counted, the damage bill is expected to be sharply higher than an initial $42 million total, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.

Many property owners have been unable to return to homes in the fire-affected region, and police said a major priority would be to expedite entry to intact residences. There have been no reports of looting, police confirmed.

Animal welfare advocates warned that a crisis was growing in fire-affected regions, with landowners prohibited access to check on animals in their care.

“It is imperative that the animal feed so generously donated by the public gets to its intended recipients immediately” said Chris Simcox, spokesman for Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania.

“Authorities are currently preventing people from providing proper care to their animals, and this is not good enough,” Mr Simcox said.

As the state government began to plan recovery, concerns grew for local tourism operators on the Tasman Peninsula dependent on the current high season.

“Many operators who survived the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires subsequently went to the wall because people simply assumed the entire region had been burnt and stayed away,” said Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson.

“The Tasman Peninsula and east coast are an integral part of our tourism economy, with international drawcards including Freycinet National Park and Port Arthur,” Senator Whish-Wilson said. “We need to get the message out that these areas are open for business.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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