Thousands of tourists and locals were left stranded on a beach in southeast Australia on Tuesday as bushfires ravaged a popular tourist area, leaving no escape by land.
As the Epoch Times’ Katabella Roberts reports, up to 4,000 people are trapped on the foreshore of the encircled seaside town of Mallacoota, in the East Gippsland region of Victoria, where authorities said nearby fires were manifesting extreme self-generating thunderstorms and “ember attacks.”
On Monday, Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner, Andrew Crisp, told residents and holidaymakers to leave the area by 9 a.m. or risk being stranded.
However, in a later update he said it was now “too late” to get out of the area safely.
The crew from Fire and Rescue NSW Station 509 Wyoming recorded this video showing the moment their truck was overrun by the bushfire burning South of Nowra. The crew was forced to shelter in their truck as the fire front passed through. #NSWFires #ProtectTheIrreplaceable pic.twitter.com/Hb0yVrefi9
— Fire and Rescue NSW (@FRNSW) December 31, 2019
Firefighters were deployed to protect those stranded on the beach, and preparations are underway for a sea or airborne evacuation if needed.
“We’ve got three strike teams in Mallacoota that will be looking after 4,000 people down on the beach there. We’re naturally very concerned about communities that have become isolated,” he added.
Hundreds of people have taken to social media to share apocalyptic images of the area, which is currently blanketed in a thick cloud of red haze.
Community radio in #Mallacoota: “The power is cut. We are isolated. It’s a holocaust, basically. Some have been sent to the hall, some to the lake, others have to stay in their homes. There’s a lot of thunder. The fires are creating their own weather.”
— Alt-Rupert (@TheMurdochTimes) December 30, 2019
It comes after authorities warned up to 30,000 tourists currently visiting the area to leave as strong winds pushed an emergency-level bushfire towards the town.
The fire moving towards Mallacoota began at Wingan River on Sunday and spread rapidly towards the coast, RNZ reported.
Meanwhile, in a press conference on Tuesday, Premier Daniel Andrews said that four people are currently missing in Victoria.
“There are a number of people who remain unaccounted for—four people, and of course we have fears for their safety,” Andrews said.
“We cannot confirm their whereabouts, but as soon as we can bring any further information to you, then, of course, we will do that.”
Andrews also asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison for military assistance amid the raging fires, suggesting naval vessels help get supplies to isolated communities or heavy-lift aircraft to work alongside the state’s air fleet.
However, no decisions regarding military assistance have been finalized as of yet.
Francesca Winterson is in a building on the main street of #Mallacoota and describes the wind, darkness and falling embers as fires burn about 500 metres away.
She says it’s too late to leave and fire crews are on hand to offer as much protection as they can. pic.twitter.com/6Tjfb4nyUR
— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) December 30, 2019
On Monday, around 100,000 people were urged to flee five Melbourne suburbs. The swirling bushfires killed a volunteer firefighter who was battling a separate blaze in the countryside.
Another volunteer firefighter from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service also died on Monday when the truck he was traveling in was overturned by strong winds and crashed at Jingellic, about 110 kilometers (68 miles) east of Albury.
Authorities named him as 28-year-old Samuel McPaul, who was reportedly expecting his first child in May with his wife, Megan, whom he married last year.
Two of his male colleagues, aged 39 and 52, also suffered burns in the incident but are said to be in a stable condition.
Another eight people have been killed so far this fire season, while more than 1,000 homes have been destroyed, according to local reports.
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