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Australians face trauma of returning to razed homes

AFP
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This photo taken on January 10, from Banksia Beach on Bribie Island, shows smoke from bushfires on the popular tourist island off the Queensland coast.photo:afp
This photo taken on January 10, from Banksia Beach on Bribie Island, shows smoke from bushfires on the popular tourist island off the Queensland coast.photo:afp

Australians who fled for their lives from raging bushfires faced the trauma on Friday of returning to see if they still had homes, as firefighters battled worsening conditions to douse about 100 blazes.

After two days of cooler weather, heat and high winds returned to much of the country as fire crews tackled the infernos that have been burning for a week, 20 of them out of control in the most populous state of New South Wales.

The southern island state of Tasmania has been hardest hit, with more than 100 homes razed, most in the fishing village of Dunalley which was cut off by the fires, forcing some residents to make dramatic escapes by boat.

The worst-affected areas have been in virtual lockdown since the fast-moving flames wreaked devastation a week ago, and townspeople are only now making the harrowing journey to inspect the damage.

Hoping against hope

Many have no idea whether their houses are still standing and with smoke still billowing overhead, police warned fires remained active in the area as emergency crews worked to clear roads and restore electricity supplies.

"Hopefully (there will be) a house sitting there," a nervous Chris Behrens told reporters of his property at Murdunna as he prepared to head back.

"It was all right on Saturday but they think the fire may have been coming back that way, that's why they asked us to leave."AFP

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