Hundreds of people have been rescued from beaches and tens of thousands have been told to evacuate with more hot weather and strong winds set to worsen Australia’s devastating bushfires.
With over 200 fires already burning, and more predicted, the country’s navy launched what has been billed as the largest peacetime evacuation in Australia’s history.
Thousands have already fled at-risk coastal areas, creating traffic gridlock in places, and firefighters escorted convoys of evacuees as fires threatened to close roads.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrew declared a disaster across much of the eastern part of the state, allowing the government to order evacuations in an area with as many as 140,000 permanent residents and tens of thousands more tourists.
“If you can leave, you must leave,” he said.
Around five million hectares (12.35 million acres) of land have burned, at least 19 people have been killed, and more than 1,400 homes have been destroyed.
This week, at least 448 homes have been destroyed on the New South Wales southern coast and dozens were burned in Victoria.
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Ten deaths have been confirmed in the two states this week, and Victoria authorities also say 28 people are missing.
Fires are also burning in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
The navy is evacuating hundreds from the Victorian coastal town of Mallacoota, which has been cut off for days by wildfires, forcing as many as 4,000 residents and tourists to shelter on beaches.
Landing craft ferried people to the HMAS Choules offshore.
Commander Scott Houlihan said 963 people had signed up for evacuation by sea and more had been airlifted to safety.
Sky News 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.”
Australian PM told to ‘**** off’ over handling of bushfires
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