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

Rent-It Centre takes over curbside collection contract in Tofino and Ucluelet

Rent It Centre’s bid was $25,865 lower than the only other bidder, SonBird Refuse and Recycling.

Tofino and Ucluelet’s Top 10 sports and arts stories of 2019

Revisiting the Coast’s best sports and arts newsmakers of the past year.

Tofino’s first cannabis dispensary opens

“I don’t know where it’s going, but happy how it’s gone so far.”

Tofino welcomes much needed veterinarian to town

West Coast has not had a full-time vet since Dr. Jane Hunt surrendered her licence in 2004.

Looking back on the West Coast’s top 10 news stories

Tofino and Ucluelet’s top headlines of 2019.

VIDEO: Cold snap brings ideal conditions for Okanagan icewine

Take an inside look at how icewine is made

Blue Monday is a myth but seasonal affective disorder and the winter blues are real

Canadian Mental Health Association says weather can affect mood

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Ice chunk from truck crushes vehicle windshield on Vancouver Island

None injured, but Nanaimo RCMP say there can be fines for accumulations of ice and snow

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Wind and snow spark power outages across Vancouver Island

Winter storm warning in effect for east and west regions while wind warning to hit south and north

BC Ferries hybrid ships arrive in Victoria on Saturday

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

Most Read