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Heatwaves an emerging threat for Tas

AAP logoAAP 13/09/2016 Andrew Drummond

Tasmania is most commonly associated with cool conditions but a new report highlights the growing risk of illness and death as the result of heatwaves on the island state.

The likelihood of heatwaves, coastal inundation and an outbreak of influenza are three new categories listed by the latest natural disaster risk assessment, released on Tuesday.

The 191-page document noted a significant increase in heat-stress related emergency illness and death, citing the most recent heatwave in January 2013 when parts of southern Tasmania experienced temperatures in the mid-30Cs and into the low-40Cs.

"Due to the lack of previously identified controls, and the general lack of procedures relating to extreme heat, the number of controls associated with this hazard is relatively limited," the report states.

The state government will respond by reviewing its management of heatwave conditions, Emergency Services Minister Rene Hidding says.

"It seems to me that intuitively the first thing in that circumstance would be communication: particularly to parents of younger people and the frail and elderly," he told reporters.

"That's generally the danger area for heatwave conditions."

Bushfires with potential catastrophic results remain the No.1 natural threat for Tasmania but Mr Hidding insists the state boasts world-leading response capabilities.

"With the equipment we've got and the great training we've got these days and the work that's been done around the world on firefighting, Tasmania is at the front of that. We're as good as anywhere in the world."

The report assessed hazards including floods, storms, landslides, tsunamis, and earthquakes with bushfires finishing top of the pile.

"It is a 'high' or 'extreme' risk across all sectors of society, often with catastrophic consequences expected every 30 years," the report says.

University of Tasmania researcher Chris White, who helped compile the report, pointed out the idea is not to predict natural disasters, but rather how likely they are and how to manage them.

"While the project does not predict the likelihood or the severity of natural disasters - such as this year's devastating bushfires and floods - it does look at the risks posed by these events and how to reduce the impact," Dr White said.

In 2016 Tasmania has experienced drought, flooding and widespread summer bushfires.

"We wouldn't have thought that we would miss the spring rains - the first time in living memory there were no spring rains," Mr Hidding said.

"Things are changing and we shouldn't assume that things won't happen."

The report notes that the risk of heatwave and coastal inundation are associated with climate change.

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