Nearly 4,000 people were forced to evacuate the southern coast of New South Wales to the Australian city of Mallacoota after high winds forced a brush fire completely out of control on Tuesday, the county fire authorities said.
Mallacoota, which is located in the state of Victoria, is a popular tourist town about 310 miles east of Melbourne, and the intense fires initially turned day into night with smoke, ash, and flames. At 8 a.m. local time, a warning siren sounded which alerted locals to head toward the coast for safety. At 9:30 a.m. the skies appeared to be pitch black.
Australia’s Minister of Defence, Linda Reynolds, said that she spoke with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to direct more emergency help toward the ravaged areas. She tweeted they have “authorised #ADF to deploy extra assets to the Victorian fires: 3 helicopters & 1 aircraft will fly to East Sale; HMAS Choules & MV Sycamore will sail to East Gippsland. A Joint Task Force has been stood up with Army personnel & Liason Officers.”
“We were bracing for the worst because, it was black,” David Jeffrey told the BBC. “Like it should have been daylight and it was black like midnight. And we could hear the fire roaring.” While many people tried to flee by boat, thousands were stuck on the Mallacoota wharf after it became too dangerous to leave. They can be seen wearing gas masks for safety.
Fire spokesman Steve Warrington said, “We’ve got three strike teams sitting in with the community, literally standing side-by-side with our community at the beachfront.” Fleeing into the ocean was the “last resort option”, Victoria’s emergency management agency said on Tuesday.
As the fires spread through the coast, the sky turned into shockingly red and bright orange colors.
There’s A Total Of Six Emergency-Level Fires Raging On the New South Wales Coast
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said the decision was made on Monday afternoon that the safest option for people in Mallacoota was to stay there. “At the community level and regional level [authorities] had to work through what their options were and undertake a risk assessment of that,” Andrews said. “We decided it would be unsafe to move them back along the Princes Highway.”
The emergency-level fire was burning between Nowra in the north, Braidwood in the west, and Batemans Bay in the south. There has been a significant increase in fire activity south of the Kings Highway to the west of Nelligen, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said.
Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters of a “significant impact” to “dozens” of properties in Cobargo and other parts of the south coast. He said, “The estimates I can see through the reports coming from the field is that we’re talking about the buildings being impacted, damaged or destroyed numbering in the dozens across these various fire grounds.”
Videos Capture The Horrific Situation For The People Trapped In Mallacoota
Mallacoota only has a population of around 1,000 people, but the population surges during the holiday time.
“Energy and Utilities have advised that due to the bush fires all power has been lost from South Nowra to Moruya and potentially beyond,” New South Wales police said. “Power is unlikely to be restored for at least 24 hours. The power outage also affects communication lines and therefore some landlines are not operating which means internet is also affected. Additionally, communication towers have been affected impacting mobile services.”
There Have Been 2 Confirmed Deaths From the Raging Fires: A Father & A Son
As firefighters worked to contain what looks like an apocalyptic fire on the southern coast of New South Wales, two people have died and one person is still reported missing.
The premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian, said two people had died while still inside their home in Cobargo on the south coast. They were local residents of the town, a father and son.
There’s Already Been Considerable Damage To Homes & Buildings
Locals on Twitter shared photos of the damaged homes in their area. Authorities said that 43 homes have been destroyed in East Gippsland.