Australian Prime Minister Tours Fire-Ravaged Tazmania

Posted January 7th, 2013 at 3:20 am (UTC-5)
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Australia's prime minister has toured the southern island of Tasmania, where four days of wildfires have damaged or destroyed hundreds of structures and left around a hundred people missing.

Australian firefighters, using helicopters and planes, are still battling the blazes on Tasmania, where the fires flared Friday after a record summer heat wave pushed temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who flew to Tasmania Monday, warned that the state of New South Wales, including the capital of Sydney, also would experience extreme heat Tuesday, when the wildfire risk would be high. Similar hot and windy conditions are forecast for the neighboring state of Victoria.

Emergency workers are searching for about 100 people who are missing in the fire area. There have been not yet been any confirmed reports of deaths.

Wildfires are common during the Australian summer. In February of 2009, hundreds of fires across Victoria state killed 173 people.