This image made from video taken on Dec. 22, 2019, and provided Dec. 25, 2019, by Ingleside Rural Fire Brigade, shows the wildfire behind an emergency vehicle near property on Hat Hill Road in Blackheath, New South Wales. Australian authorities have warned that the fires in New South Wales could fester for months, causing more angst for exhausted firefighters.(Ingleside Rural Fire Brigade via AP)

Some flee, others restock before Australian wildfires worsen

Authorities said 381 homes had been destroyed on the New South Wales southern coast this week

Thousands of tourists fled Australia’s wildfire-ravaged eastern coast Thursday ahead of worsening conditions as the military started to evacuate people trapped on the shore further south.

Cooler weather since Tuesday has aided firefighting and allowed people to replenish supplies. Vehicles formed long lines at gas stations and supermarkets, and traffic was gridlocked as highways reopened. But fire conditions were expected to deteriorate Saturday as high temperatures and strong winds are forecast to return.

“There is every potential that the conditions on Saturday will be as bad or worse than we saw” on Tuesday, New South Wales Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said.

Authorities said 381 homes had been destroyed on the New South Wales southern coast this week and at least eight people have died this week in the state and neighbouring Victoria, Australia’s two most-populous states, where more than 200 fires are currently burning.

Fires have also been burning in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.

The early and devastating start to Australia’s summer wildfires has led authorities to rate this season the worst on record. About 5 million hectares (12.35 million acres) of land have burned, at least 17 people have been killed and more than 1,400 homes have been destroyed.

Prime Minster Scott Morrison said the crisis was likely to last for months.

“It will continue to go on until we can get some decent rain that can deal with some of the fires that have been burning for many, many months,” Morrison told reporters on Thursday.

New South Wales authorities on Thursday morning ordered tourists to leave a 250-kilometre (155-mile) zone along the picturesque south coast. State Transport Minister Andrew Constance said it is the “largest mass relocation of people out of the region that we’ve ever seen.”

New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian declared a seven-day state of emergency starting Friday, which grants the New South Wales Rural Fire Service commissioner more control and power.

It’s the third state of emergency for New South Wales in the past two months, after previously not being implemented since 2013.

“We don’t take these decisions lightly but we also want to make sure we’re taking every single precaution to be prepared for what could be a horrible day on Saturday,” Berejiklian said.

A statewide total fire ban will be in place on Friday and Saturday.

ALSO READ: Raging wildfires trap 4,000 at Australian town’s waterfront

In Victoria, where 83 homes have burned this week, the military was helping thousands of people who fled to the shore as a wildfire threatened their homes Tuesday in the coastal town of Mallacoota. Food, water, fuel and medical expertise were being delivered and about 500 people were going to be evacuated from the town by a naval ship.

“We think around 3,000 tourists and 1,000 locals are there. Not all of those will want to leave, not all can get on the vessel at one time,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

A contingent of 39 firefighters from the United States and Canada landed in Melbourne on Thursday to help with the catastrophe.

Smoke from the wildfires made the air quality in the national capital, Canberra, the world’s worst in a ranking index Thursday and was blowing into New Zealand.

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

Perseverance Week raises more than $155,000 for Cumberland Community Forest Society

The Cumberland Forest’s Perseverance Week (Oct. 21-3, 2019) fundraising drive totals are… Continue reading

Musical feast celebrates Lunar New Year in Courtenay

Chai Found Music Workshop performs contemporary take on Chinese music Jan. 27

Quick response from Comox Fire Rescue saves two homes

Sunday afternoon (Jan. 19) Comox Fire Rescue received a report of a… Continue reading

Gas leak clears shopping centre in Courtenay

Fire department does not find smell source but turns up carbon monoxide traces

Hayashi Studio film looks at Cumberland’s hidden history

Film screens at festival Feb. 1, pre-screening is held on Jan. 23

VIDEO: Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

A state of emergency is set to extend into a fifth day

Power lines cut as thieves strike Vancouver Island veterinary hospital

‘Thankfully there weren’t any animals or staff in the clinic when this happened’

Warm ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: study

Unprecedented death toll raises red flag for North American marine ecosystems

ICBC to bring in ranking system for collision, glass repair shops

Change comes after the much-maligned auto insurer has faced criticism for sky-high premiums

Ocean literacy girls’ camp on Hornby Island now accepting registration

Learning retreat for young women ages 15 through 18

‘It was just so fast’: B.C. teen recalls 150-metre fall down Oregon mountain

Surrey’s Gurbaz Singh broke his leg on Mount Hood on Dec. 30

Vancouver Island Pride weekend returns to Mount Washington Alpine Resort

Building on the success of last year’s family-friendly pride festival on Vancouver… Continue reading

Scarlett Point lighthouse keeper wins a million bucks playing the lottery

“I usually just get a quick pick, so I didn’t expect to win a big prize”

Most Read