Grave concerns for 'handful' of people

POLICE hold grave concerns for a handful of people who have failed to get in touch with family or friends after devastating bushfires swept through parts of Tasmania.

Acting Tasmanian Police Commissioner Scott Tilyard said today that he feared there would be fatalities from the Forcett fire that devastated the small township of Dunalley, and which continues to sweep across the Tasman Peninsula.

``We hope for the best, but we plan for the worst. It is still possible until all these premises have been cleared that (a death) may well have happened,'' he said.

``People just need to brace themselves that that could occur. I don't want to unduly worry families or friends who might not have had contact with people or had any news ... but we have to be realistic that until we go through the processes that we're going through at the moment that we won't know for sure.''

Firefighters who took cover in their truck reported seeing a man outside trying to defend his property at Dunalley. A triage team that checked the remains of the building on Friday night found no sign of him.

However, Acting Commissioner Tilyard said that property would be searched more thoroughly again.

``If you have a house or shack that burns to the ground there's quite a thorough investigation that needs to happen to confirm that there is definitely no deceased person in there ... that's the sort of stuff that is happening now.''

There are also a handful of other people who have been reported as missing.

The fire, which started at Forcett, is still out of control and the only access road to the Peninsula remains closed.

Tasmania's chief fire officer Mike Brown said he had some confidence that two other fires, which started near Bicheno and at Lake Repulse, would be brought under control in the next 48 hours.

Those three major fires have so far destroyed about 100 properties and burnt 60,000 hectares of land.

Up to 2000 people remain on the Peninsula - cut off from the rest of Tasmania. Other were removed by boat, and have taken refuge in Hobart.

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