More than 30 people were killed and at least 18 injured when a man pulled a gun from a sports bag and went on a killing spree at Port Arthur yesterday, police said at a press conference.
Last night, the gunman was still shooting at police from a bed and breakfast cottage north of Port Arthur where he had taken three people hostage late in the afternoon.
Police Commissioner John Johnson said he had no reason to believe the hostages, a family of two and an interstate visitor, were not alive.
He said police surrounding the cottage were in regular phone contact with the man who had made some demands which were being considered. These are believed to include guarantee of a safe passage out of Port Arthur.
Mr Johnson said nothing was known about the man.
In a direct appeal to the gunman, Mr Johnson said: "Why he has done this no-one knows, but if he has done it to make some point in life, then he's made that point -- now's the time to come out and prevent further loss of life."
He said the Hoddle St massacre in Melbourne paled into insignificance beside yesterday's incident.
Last night there was still confusion over how many people had been killed, with Mr Johnson saying police could find more bodies around the Port Arthur historic site where the shooting started probably in a restaurant about 2 pm.
The gunman was reportedly speaking to customers and staff before pulling a gun from a sports bag and opening fire on tourists, including families and children, in the restaurant. He then moved on, still shooting indiscriminately, to the tollgate and to the Fox and Hounds Hotel, where at least one person was killed.
The driver of a tourist bus was also reported to have been shot as he drove his bus through the tollgate.
Mr Johnson said the gunman could have had more than one weapon and that he had to have access to a high-powered automatic weapon to have killed so many people. Police now believe he was using an M16.
He said two cars were involved in the incident - a yellow Volvo and a white VW or a BMW.
Last night, police skilled in disaster victim identification were trying to identify the victims.
Mr Johnson said police were also still looking for more people wounded by the gunman.
It has been confirmed there were some overseas and interstate visitors killed. Families and relatives of the dead and injured were still being located last night.
[image: "Stunned: Police Commissioner John Johnson said the Hoddle Street massacre in Melbourne paled into insignificance beside yesterday's incident." (10.5x17) ]