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Wildfires destroy homes in Tasmania

SYDNEY — Australia’s island state of Tasmania is recovering from wildfires that destroyed more than 100 properties and displaced more than 2,000 people as the continent braces for a second week of extreme heat.

Australia is sending financial aid and extra firefighters to Tasmania. The government plans grants of as much as $9,300 to help people in fire-stricken communities cover living expenses and find new homes, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

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The wildfires in Tasmania, an island the size of West Virginia about 150 miles off Australia’s southeast coast, forced residents to seek refuge on boats, beaches, and other sites including the former convict settlement of Port Arthur, now a tourist destination.

While temperatures have cooled in Tasmania, helping crews fight the fires, other parts of the country face a continuing heat wave.

Australia last week faced its most wide-ranging heat wave in more than a decade as 80 percent of the country recorded temperatures above 104 degrees, the weather bureau said. Extreme heat is expected to continue in parts of South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales.

At least 100 homes and buildings have been destroyed in Tasmania, which has a population of about 500,000 people out of Australia’s more than 22 million. As many as 1,000 residents have been sent by boat from the Tasman Peninsula to the state capital, Hobart, according to police.

While Tasmania Police has not confirmed any deaths, it has concerns about a number of people reported missing, said Scott Tilyard, acting police commissioner.

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