48 hours of hell finally finishes

TASMANIA was last night assessing the cost of a horrendous 48 hours of bushfires that destroyed more than 100 properties.

Last night, three major bushfires had been downgraded and the Tasman Highway near Bicheno had reopened, although firefighters expect another tough day today.

The Tasmania Fire Service downgraded a fire at Bicheno to advice level, the third most serious level for bushfires. It had been at the emergency warning level earlier yesterday.

The Tasman Highway was reopened after the downgrade.

The major Southern fires at Nubeena, Forcett and Lake Repulse were listed in the watch and act category late last night.

A crew of 65 Victorian firefighters is preparing to head to Tasmania tonight for four days.

The Forcett blaze on the Tasman Peninsula has claimed at least 80 properties and left thousands of people isolated overnight.

Recreational and commercial vessels were used to bring in thousands of meals and other essential supplies, and to evacuate people on Friday and yesterday.

Police said 600 people, many of them visitors to the area, were likely to spend a second night at convict ruins. There were 2000 people at a temporary refuge in Nubeena and another 100 at the Dunalley Hotel.

The road onto the peninsula, the Arthur Highway, has been closed since Friday.

Acting Police Commissioner Scott Tilyard said he was hopeful some vehicles could be escorted from the peninsula soon.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard threw the federal government's support behind the firefighting and support efforts in Tasmania and said disaster assistance would start flowing in coming days.

Insurers declared the bushfire-hit towns a catastrophe and police powers were increased when the Tasman Peninsula was declared a serious-incident site.

Electricity company Aurora said it could take several weeks to restore power in some areas, with 300 poles down on the Tasman Peninsula.

Property losses include 30 per cent of the buildings in the small community of Dunalley, including the school and police station.

At Connellys Marsh, 40per cent of the buildings are gone.

Twenty houses have been lost around Murdunna and possibly more at Eaglehawk Neck.

No deaths or serious injuries have been confirmed, despite unconfirmed reports on Friday night.

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