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

VicPD confirms wolf sighting in James Bay

Police ask that children and pets be taken inside

VIDEO: Furry, four-legged donors make their way to doggy blood drive in Langford

WAVES and Canadian Animal Blood Bank host blood drive for dogs

Annual Salmon Carcass Transplant draws Saanich residents to Douglas Creek

More than 100 frozen salmon tossed into the creek as part of ecological restoration

Colwood hosts open house on future of Royal Bay community

Event takes place on Jan. 22 at Royal Bay Secondary from 6 to 8 p.m.

WATCH: Police warn car break-ins are on the rise in Greater Victoria

Residents can ‘take precautions to make their vehicle undesirable,’ says VicPD spokesperson

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

VIDEO: Drone footage shows extent of damage in Highway 4 rockslide

Tofino, Ucluelet still cut off from rest of the island, as crews work to repair roadway

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Canada slips in global corruption ranking in aftermath of SNC-Lavalin scandal

The country obtained a score of 77, which places it at the top in the Americas

Wuhan bans cars, Hong Kong closes schools as coronavirus spreads

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government will raise its response level to emergency, highest one

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

Most Read