In this Monday, Dec. 30, 2019 photo provided by State Government of Victoria, a helicopter tackles a wildfire in East Gippsland, Victoria state, Australia. Wildfires burning across Australia’s two most-populous states trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions Tuesday, Dec. 31, and were feared to have destroyed many properties and caused fatalities. (State Government of Victoria via AP)

Raging wildfires trap 4,000 at Australian town’s waterfront

Fire conditions worsened in Victoria and New South Wales states after oppressive heat Monday

Wildfires burning across Australia’s two most-populous states Tuesday trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions, destroyed many properties and caused at least two fatalities.

In the southeastern town of Mallacoota, around 4,000 residents fled toward the waterside as winds pushed an emergency-level wildfire towards their homes. The town was shrouded in darkness from the smoke before turning an unnerving shade of bright red.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said there were plans to evacuate the trapped people by sea. There were grave fears remain for four people missing. “We can’t confirm their whereabouts,” Andrews told reporters on Tuesday.

He has requested assistance from 70 firefighters from the United States and Canada.

READ MORE: Canada sends two more groups to Australia to help fight wildfires

Victoria Emergency Services Commissioner Andrew Crisp confirmed “significant” property losses across the region.

Fire conditions worsened in Victoria and New South Wales states after oppressive heat Monday mixed with strong winds and lightning strikes.

New South Wales Police confirmed Tuesday that two men, believed to be father and son, died in a house in the wildfire-ravaged southeast town of Cobargo, while there are fears for another man missing.

“They were obviously trying to do their best with the fire as it came through in the early hours of the morning,” New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said. “The other person that we are trying to get to, we think that person was trying to defend their property in the early hours of the morning.”

The two confirmed deaths raise the toll to at least 12 in Australia’s wildfires, which also have razed more than 1,000 homes in the past few months.

A firefighter died Monday when extreme winds flipped his truck. Samuel McPaul, 28, was the third volunteer firefighter in New South Wales to have died in the past two weeks. He was an expectant father.

The state’s Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said a “significant” number of properties had been destroyed.

Some communities have cancelled New Year’s fireworks celebrations, but Sydney’s popular display over its iconic harbourfront will go ahead. The city was granted an exemption to a total fireworks ban that is in place there and elsewhere to prevent new wildfires.

Hot temperatures were expected, as was the thick smoke that has shrouded views of the harbour and Sydney Opera House in recent weeks.

The popular celebrations are expected to attract around a million spectators and generate 130 million Australian dollars ($91 million) for the state’s economy.

Tristan Lavalette, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Show us your positive messages, gestures and actions

Pinecrest teachers send message to their school community

No more ferries will sail from Departure Bay, Mill Bay, Brentwood Bay during COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. Ferries announces major changes to sailing schedules for 60 days starting Saturday, April 4

Johnny Dollar Plumbing & Heating offers to pick up meds, groceries in Campbell River

Company’s trucks are available to help out those who are self-isolating due to illness or age

Campbell River School District approves three-year calendar

Calendar aligns with Comox Valley School District and includes two-week spring break

VIDEO: ‘Used gloves and masks go in the garbage,’ says irked B.C. mayor

Health officials have said single-use gloves won’t do much to curb the spread of COVID-19

Campbell River community COVID-19 agencies, services and resources list

The list outlines status of social agencies in the community

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Black Press Media ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

Nanaimo man arrested after allegedly setting house fire

Firefighters arrived to find mobile home ablaze on Barnes Road in Cedar on Thursday

Emergency funding available for North Island College students

Funding for students experiencing financial strain that may affect their ability to continue studies

Most Read