Three people feared dead in Australian bushfires-authorities

Elias Hubbard
January 15, 2020

In Australia, the Government has made a decision to send military aircraft and vessels in the fire-ravaged states of New South Wales and Victoria.

Four people - who are not firefighters - are unaccounted for and authorities say there have been "significant property losses" as raging fires burnt thousands of hectares across East Gippsland and the state's north-east.

The annual Australian fire season, which peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer, started early after an unusually warm and dry winter.

Huge bushfires have destroyed more than 4 million hectares - an area larger than Japan - and new blazes are sparked nearly daily by extremely hot and windy conditions and, most recently, dry lightning strikes created by the fires themselves.

New South Wales state Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said this wildfire season is the worst on record and painted a bleak long-term picture. "You have a nation on fire", said Mr. Sanders at a press conference in Iowa.

"We haven't been able to get access via roads or via aircraft".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the military support on Tuesday afternoon. Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas.

Morrison, whom critics have deemed a climate change skeptic, conceded earlier this month that "climate change along with many other factors" has contributed to the wildfires. Social media was awash with images of buildings reduced to charred rubble and burnt-out cars.

Another Mallacoota resident, Jann Gilbert, said she's lost her home and her boat. Residents returning home were urged to boil tap water before drinking it.

The city of Mallacoota is completely surrounded by flame and 4,000 people have been forced to flee and seek shelter on the beach.

As the prospect of homelessness looms, Ms Hutchings and her husband are among fire-affected residents working out where to stay and how to take care of their families.

"I spoke with people today and they just said it was hurricane-like, horrifying, terrifying, the most frightening experience of their life", Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

"We've got about 4000 people that are down near the water and they're being well protected by the CFA ... but we're naturally concerned and watching that one with great interest", Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp told Red Symons, filling in for Neil Mitchell.

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

Eight emergency warnings remain in place for bushfires that have destroyed dozens of properties in the state's east and north-east, where four people remain missing.

Meanwhile, while some communities cancelled New Year's fireworks celebrations, Sydney's popular display over its iconic harborfront will go ahead.

Naval vessels including the HMAS Choules left Sydney bound for the East Gippsland coast on Tuesday evening and training vessel MV Sycamore has also been deployed.

"At the very least, weather conditions will be at least as bad as what they were yesterday", New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

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 of another man missing.

'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'.

Smoke from Australia's bushfires has drifted to New Zealand where it has turned the daytime sky orange across the South Island.

Volunteer firefighter Sam McPaul, 28, died after his 10-tonne Rural Fire Service truck was flipped by a fire-tornado near Jingellic on the NSW-Victorian border.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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