Emergency services hold grave concerns for nearly 30 people as catastrophic bushfires continue to tear through Victoria’s east.
The devastating news comes as the death toll in NSW rises to eight, with nearly 450 homes destroyed since New Year’s Eve on the south coast.
Around Australia, 19 people have now died in bushfires.
On Friday afternoon, an emergency warning was issued for a blaze on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, which has been burning for several days. Up to 10,000 people are on the island during the holiday period.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said 28 people were unaccounted for on Friday morning, on top of two people confirmed dead from the East Gippsland fires on New Year’s Eve.
“I can confirm today, as at 9.30, there are 28 people that we cannot locate, and we are very concerned about their wellbeing.
“I am saddened to have to update you that the total number of people who cannot be accounted for has now grown to 28. It remains the case that two people can be confirmed as having lost their lives.
“We have grave fears for the safety and wellbeing of those 28 people who cannot be located. Having said that, though, these numbers will move around.
WATCH & ACT – BUSHFIRE
Incident Location: Mallacoota area
— CFA Updates (@CFA_Updates) January 2, 2020
Mr Andrews said some of those among 17 residents in remote areas unaccounted for earlier in the week were located on Thursday.
He said there were other residents who emergency services had not yet been able to classify as “missing” who never made it onto a list, “but have become known to family and friends only very recently, after a period of absence”.
“These numbers will move around. That’s the nature of a very dynamic
fire ground,” he said.
It comes after Mr Andrews declared a state of disaster for East Gippsland on Thursday night.
These powers have never been used before and allow authorities to compel people to leave.
Residents in north-eastern Victorian communities – including Biggara, Tintaldra, Towong, Towong Upper, Walwa, Nariel Valley, Lucyvale, Berringama, Koetong, Shelley and Burrowye – have been ordered to get out.
“If you can leave, you must leave. That’s the only safe thing for you, your family and, indeed, for others who may be called to your assistance,” the premier said on Friday.
“We cannot guarantee your safety.”
More than 780,000 hectares have been razed by about 50 fires burning in the state’s east and northeast.
NSW fires continue destructive path
Meanwhile, more than 140 blazes continue to burn across NSW on Friday, many of them uncontrolled, with three fires burning at a “watch and act” level as of 10am on Friday.
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service said 449 homes have been destroyed on the south coast since New Year’s Eve and 1365 homes, 100 facilities and 2339 outbuildings such as sheds have been confirmed destroyed across NSW since July.
Eight people have perished since Monday after police found a missing 72-year-old man’s body by a Belowra road, taking the NSW bushfire death toll since July to 16. That includes three firefighters.
The unidentified man’s death follows the deaths of six other civilians since New Year’s Eve and that of 28-year-old volunteer firefighter Samuel McPaul, who died on Monday in a truck crash near the NSW-Victoria border
A 72-year-old man missing from Belowra, west of Narooma, has been confirmed as the latest fatality.
All of NSW is subject to a state of emergency, due to expire next Friday.
What we know so far:
- 16 people dead, one missing
- More than 140 bushfires burning
- 3.6 million hectares burned, greater than the size of Belgium
- 1365 homes confirmed destroyed
- Two people dead, 28 missing
- About 50 bushfires burning
- More than 780,000 hectares burned
- 68 structures confirmed destroyed but this number is expected to rise significantly
- *One person dead
- About 20 bushfires burning, three of significance
- More than 60,000 hectares burned
- 88 homes confirmed destroyed
- *About 30 bushfires burning
- 250,000 hectares burned
- 45 homes confirmed destroyed
- More than 30 bushfires burning, two of significance
- 1.2 million hectares burned
- One home confirmed destroyed
- More than 30 bushfires burning, seven of significance
- 8000 hectares burned
- One home confirmed destroyed