Thousands of people stranded on the east coast of fire-ravaged Australia are waiting to be evacuated by the country’s navy.
A searing weather front is set to whip up more blazes across the states of Victoria and New South Wales (NSW).
The premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, declared a state of disaster for the first time ever, giving authorities more powers to compel people to leave their properties and take control of services.
Bushfires have already killed two in the state and 17 are missing with grave fears for their safety.
NSW has also issued a state of emergency and tens of thousands of holidaymakers have been urged to leave national parks and remote tourist areas.
The navy’s HMAS Choules is expected to evacuate around 1,000 out of 4,000 people stranded on a beach in the isolated town of Mallacoota in far-east Victoria, with women, children, the elderly and sick going first.
With all roads blocked, sea transport is the only way out of the stricken town and each round trip could take a day or more.
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Sky correspondent Tom Cheshire, in Mallacoota, said: “This is a welcome relief for these people.
“They’ve been stuck here since these fires started on Sunday and conditions aren’t great.
“There’s still no power and they are running out of food to a certain extent.”
Forecasters are warning that temperatures will soar above 40C (104F) on Saturday, bringing a return of wild winds.
Andrew Crisp, emergency management commissioner for Victoria, urged people in the area to leave their homes immediately and not count on luck to avoid disaster.
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“This is your opportunity to get out. It is not just the fires we know. It is the new fires that might start today.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had called for calm on Thursday, before visiting the fire-devastated town of Cobargo.
Footage showed Mr Morrison being confronted by a group of angry locals, one of whom shouted he should be “ashamed of himself” and said he had “left the country to burn”.
Source : Sky News