Wildfires rage across southern Australia

Australian officials battled a series of wildfires amid scorching temperatures across the country on Friday, with one blaze suspected of damaging or destroying dozens of buildings in the island state of Tasmania.

Firefighters were trying to confirm reports that up to 65 buildings had been damaged by a wildfire near the small town of Dunalley, east of the Tasmanian capital of Hobart, Tasmania Fire Service spokesman Paul Symington said. Officials were also looking into a report that one person was killed in the blaze.

"There has been significant loss of structures,'' Tasmania Acting Police Commissioner Scott Tilyard said.

Wildfires were raging across southern Australia amid blistering temperatures and high winds. The temperature in Hobart reached a record high of nearly 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit). Conditions were expected to ease across much of the region on Saturday, but fire officials warned that the danger from some of the fires remained high.

"We reached catastrophic fire danger ratings at times during this afternoon,'' Tasmania Fire Service Chief Officer Mike Brown told reporters. "I don't think we're quite out of the woods yet.''

Wildfires are common during the Australian summer. In February 2009, hundreds of fires across Victoria state killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

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