Australia fires: Thousands told to evacuate in Victoria

  • December 30, 2019

New South Wales Rural Fire Service observers during back burnning operations near Picton, Australia December 22, 2019. Picture taken December 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jill Gralow

Soaring temperatures and strong winds have sparked new fires in the Australian state of Victoria, where tens of thousands of people were urged to flee.

Many tourists have heeded warnings to leave the East Gippsland holiday region – but others remain.

The worsening weather started blazes and fanned existing ones across the nation’s south-east on Monday.

Crews across four states were bracing for a day of extreme fire danger.

More than 100 blazes continue to rage across Australia.

Extreme fire warnings have been issued for the states of Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales (NSW) and Tasmania.

Some of the largest blazes are raging near the city of Sydney in NSW, where more than a quarter of a million people have signed a petition calling for the New Year’s Eve fireworks to be cancelled and the money spent on fighting fires.

What are the risks in Victoria?

In the East Gippsland region, three fires burning near the towns of Bruthen, Buchan and Bonang were forecast to grow as temperatures pass 40C (104F).

A strong wind change was predicted to drive them towards the coast, potentially crossing and cutting off the region’s main road.

A fire which started on Sunday near the Princes Highway forced the road’s closure for a few hours.

Andrew Crisp, Victoria’s state emergency management commissioner, said anyone in the area to the east of Bairnsdale – about 280km (175 miles) east of Melbourne – should move.

He had warned people to evacuate by Monday morning or “there is every chance you won’t be able to leave”.

“The state is dry and it is going to be very hot and windy. People, get out now. If you don’t, you have got to stay across the conditions and listen to the warnings during the day,” he said.