Nation on alert as bushfires spread, Gillard warns NSW residents to be vigilant

Tasmania begins road to bushfire recovery

14 January 2013

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Australia —  THE head of the Tasmanian bushfire recovery taskforce says it could take years for devastated communities to be rebuilt.

Fires described as the worst in almost half a century have burned more than 110,000 hectares across the island state, with more than 130 homes destroyed.

The town of Dunalley, east of Hobart, has been the hardest hit, with more than half the town’s buildings and a local primary school lost.

Tasmanian Bushfires Recovery Taskforce chairman Damian Bugg said the state was now in recovery mode, barring any new flare-ups or emergencies.

“The end point is the re-establishment of these communities to the point that we’re all happy,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

Rebuilding communities could take up to two years, he said.

The Tasmanian government will absorb most of the cost of the clean-up, with contractors expected to start clearing damaged properties before the end of the week.

Volunteers and businesses had overwhelmed the taskforce with offers of help, Mr Bugg said in a statement.

The taskforce would open offices in Sorell and send people to the fire-affected towns of Dunalley, Murdunna and Nubeena, he said.

Victorian firefighter Peter Ronald Cramer, 61, died while working on secondment at Taranna on Sunday.

The experienced firefighter had been working to identify potential containment lines on the southern boundary of the Forcett fire, about 2-3 kilometres from the active fire edge.

Four major bushfires continued to burn out of control on Monday, including a huge blaze in the Southwest National Park which has consumed more than 49,000ha.

There are several advice notices in place for residents but no emergency warnings.

The major thoroughfare to the Tasman Peninsula, the Arthur Highway, was reopened on Sunday.

Patricia Leary will chair the Tasmanian Bushfire Appeal Distribution Committee.

The committee will oversee the distribution of donations to the Red Cross appeal, which have already passed $3 million.

Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings said Ms Leary is a skilled administrator, former president of the Tasmanian Industrial Commission and deputy president of Fair Work Australia.

“The outpouring of support and donations in the wake of these devastating fires has been phenomenal and it is important that help is targeted to where it is most needed,” Ms Giddings said in a statement.

Ms Leary said she intended visiting all affected communities as soon as possible and is keen to ensure funds flow quickly to areas in the most need.

* Donations can be made online at or phone 1800 811 700.

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