On New Year’s Eve, thousands of people rushed to beaches in an effort to escape the bushfires in Australia that had ripped through popular tourist areas and cut off access to several towns in the states of Victoria and New South Wales (NSW). Some 4,000 people took shelter on the beach in Mallacoota while around 4,000 more were evacuated to community centers in Victoria.
There are thousands of firefighters who have been working throughout the night on New Year’s Day, fighting around 112 fires across NSW. “At 3 am on 1 January 2020, there are 112 fires burning across NSW. Several large & dangerous fires continue burning on the South Coast where 2 fires remain at emergency warning. A further 6 fires are at Watch and Act. Over 2500 firefighters continue working on these fires,” the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) tweeted.
Several seaside towns in Australia’s east coast have been engulfed in the bushfires and at least seven people in NSW have been confirmed dead, bringing the death toll to 12 since fires first broke out in October.
According to a statement by the NSW Police Force, emergency services have responded to the following fatal incidents since December 30:
- A 28-year-old NSW RFS volunteer firefighter died at a property on River Road, Jingellic.
- Two men, aged 29 and 63, died at a property at Wandella, about 10 km northwest of Cobargo.
- A 70-year-old man was found dead outside a home at Yatte Yattah, about 6 km west of Lake Conjola.
- The body of a man was found in a burnt-out car on a road off the Princes Highway at Yatte Yattah.
- The body of a man was found in a vehicle on Wandra Road, Sussex Inlet.
- A body has been found outside a home at Coolagolite, about 10 km east of Cobargo.
The Australian government has prepared naval vessels and military helicopters to assist in fighting fires and to evacuate the survivors. The Australian army is setting up a joint task force to coordinate the defense effort in Victoria, while a second task force will be set up in NSW on January 2 amid talks between defense chiefs and state authorities.
Bushfires have destroyed more than four million hectares (ten million acres) which is an area larger than Japan.