28 people confirmed missing in Vic bushfire crisis

 

The Premier has confirmed that the number of people unaccounted for in Victoria's bushfire-affected areas has risen to 28.

An additional two people have been confirmed as dead, and Premier Daniel Andrews declared a State of Disaster late last night.

Mr Andrews said the number of missing was likely to change throughout the day as some people were found and other reports were made.

"We have grave fears for the safety and wellbeing for those 28 who cannot be located," he said.

"Some of those who were part of the original 17 were located yesterday.

"In those declared areas, those six local government areas, the alpine resorts and particularly the fire impact zone if you can leave you must leave."

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Mallacoota Fires evacuation. The first of the Navy landing boats head out to the ships. Picture: David Caird
Mallacoota Fires evacuation. The first of the Navy landing boats head out to the ships. Picture: David Caird

 

Evacuees at Mallacoota board one of HMAS Choules’ landings craft for transfer to a navy ship during their evacuation.
Evacuees at Mallacoota board one of HMAS Choules’ landings craft for transfer to a navy ship during their evacuation.

Mr Andrews urged people in the six declared areas as part of the state of disaster announced last night to leave now, saying it's an unprecedented disaster.

"We cannot guarantee your safety," Mr Andrews said.

Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton said there was now an action plan that would be enacted while the state of disaster was in place.

There are 100,000 people affected, including in major towns such as Bright, Omeo, and Mallacoota.

Mr Ashton said if people in the "impact zone" can stay with family or friends outside of the affected area "we would ask that you would take up that option".

Mr Ashton urged patience from Victorians who were trying to get supplies and said a police presence would remain in the affected areas while it is safe to be there.

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said "unprecedented" conditions including the number of fires and the worsening weather expected meant the state of disaster had to be declared.

She said 250,000 text messages had been sent and phone calls had been made to those in affected areas.

"This will absolutely save lives," she said.

Ms Neville said people should leave "Where it is safe to do so" and that the fact 28 people were missing hammered home the dangers that were faced.

"We will be sending out police to make sure you've got the message," she said.

Residents living in and around Corryong have been urged to leave now, with a fire along the NSW border expected to create fire storm conditions by Saturday.

Authorities have asked anyone in Biggara, Tintaldra, Towong, Towong Upper, Walwa and surrounding areas to evacuate immediately.

The best route is to travel west on the Murray Valley Highway toward Corryong and Tallangatta,

A second large fire in the west has also triggered evacuation noticed for Nariel Valley, Lucyvale, Berringama, Koetong, Shelley, Burrowye.

 

 

Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to this morning reveal where evacuees must go as towns brace for a difficult day of high temperatures and northerly winds.

The government has declared a state of disaster as authorities urged people near fires East Gippsland and the state's north east to get out immediately.

Emergency services have identified Wodonga and Wangaratta as defendable and have urged Victorians in evacuation zones to flee to built-up areas.

Convoy leave Corryong fires under CFA protection earlier this week. Picture: Tony Gough
Convoy leave Corryong fires under CFA protection earlier this week. Picture: Tony Gough

 

Residents have been urged to evacuate the alpine region today. Picture: Tony Gough
Residents have been urged to evacuate the alpine region today. Picture: Tony Gough

Evacuation centres have been set up at the Performing Arts Centre and HP Barr Reserve in Wangaratta and the The Cube in Wodonga.

Relief centres are also open at Corryong High School and Tallangatta Memorial Hall.

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville told 3AW more fires could be sparked by lightning today while a south-westerly wind change could later create massive fire fronts.

"The chances are that it joins with the NSW fire," she said.

"Eventually it will all be one.

"If you can get out (evacuate) absolutely go and go early."

Police are on hand in both regions to help people as they leave.

Premier Daniel Andrews last night declared a State of Disaster for six Local Government Areas and the Alpine Resorts, after considering advice from the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and the Emergency Management Commissioner.

This will give the government special powers to deal with Victoria's worsening bushfire crisis.

It is the first time the powers have been used.

Declaring a State of Disaster will allow forced evacuations and allow emergency services to take over properties.

So far, evacuations have been voluntary.

Authorities fear fires in the region could merge with those across the border in New South Wales if they continue to burn as predicted.

The fires ravaging East Gippsland and the state's northeast have now ripped through more than 785,000 hectares.

More than 1000 firefighters continue to battle the infernos, with 48 fires burning out of control this morning.

Twelve watch and act warnings are in place.

Today 66 aircraft are available around the state to help conduct water bombing and intelligence gathering.

The State Control Centre said that the key priority was providing access and services to those isolated by the bushfires as soon as possible.

Seventeen people are still missing this morning.

MALLACOOTA EVACUATION

People have started to arrive at Bastion Point in Mallacoota as the mass evacuation of the town begins.

The first two boats left the wharf by 8.40am.

Those being evacuated first included families with young children and people with pets.

They will be taken to a smaller ship before the majority of people are ferried to HMAS Choules.

Up to 50 people were also flown out yesterday.

Stranded residents and holidaymakers have started to evacuate Mallacoota by ship. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images
Stranded residents and holidaymakers have started to evacuate Mallacoota by ship. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Jill Heslop and Judy Jarvis said they were relieved to be leaving.

"We are just glad to be getting out," Ms Heslop said.

"The fire might come back. It's been traumatic."

"Operation Southern Discovery" will see 1000 people evacuated from the

town today.

Residents and holiday makers will make their way to the wharf at Bastion Point and be ferried across to HMAS Choules in smaller boats.

The town was covered in thick smoke on Friday morning and conditions are tipped to get worse over the weekend with the mercury to hit 41 in the town.


TENSE DAYS AHEAD FOR BRIGHT

Alpine tourist Mecca Bright is all but closed as local residents bunker down for a tense 48 hours.

Amid fears two major fires could meet in the surrounding mountains to form a mega fire late Friday or Saturday, campers left the area in droves on Thursday.

Most visitors who stayed the night began hitting the roads from 5am to get out of the area, concerned roads to Bright would be closed later today.

Cafes and shops in the normally bustling streets did not open this morning, while the streets are largely deserted.

Even in the centre of town one home already has a sprinkler going on top of its roof, though there are no immediate warnings or the prescience of emergency services.

Bright's two supermarkets remain open for residents stocking up on supplies, but there are few other signs of life in the town other than cars passing through from areas deeper in the Alpine National Park.

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