HOBART, Australia -- With 100 people unaccounted for, three days after wildfires broke out in the island state of Tasmania, charred ruins of more than 100 homes and other buildings were searched yesterday for bodies.
As scores of fires raged across the parched southeast, a volunteer firefighter suffered severe burns to his hands and face while fighting a grass fire near Gundaroo village, 138 miles southwest of Sydney, the New South Wales fire service said. He was flown to a hospital in Sydney.
Tasmania's acting police commissioner, Scott Tilyard, said no casualties had been reported yet, but it would take time before officials were certain that no one had died in the blazes, which have razed 50,000 acres of forests and farmland since Friday.
Tilyard said 11 teams were searching for the roughly 100 missing residents in places including the town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart, where around 90 homes were destroyed.
A 31-year-old man was charged with starting one of the fires by leaving a campfire unattended last week.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard flew to Tasmania yesterday and warned that a period of extreme heat was arriving Tuesday in New South Wales, the most populous state. "You would not put any one event down to climate change," she said, "[but] we do know over time that as a result of climate change we are going to see more extreme weather events and conditions." -- AP