Three people caught in bushfires in Australia’s southeast are feared dead, authorities said on Tuesday, as huge fire fronts cause widespread devastation and forced thousands of holidaymakers to flee to beaches to escape the flames.
New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said there were preliminary reports of three potential fatalities in small towns in the state of New South Wales.
Fitzsimmons said it was unsafe for police to get to the locations due to the ongoing threat from fires.
Authorities say 4 people unaccounted in Australian bush fires
“We have three people unaccounted for and the potential for three potential fatalities as a result of the fire on the south coast,” Fitzsimmons told media.
Two people are feared dead in the town of Cobargo, and one in Belowra.
A further four people are unaccounted for in the state of Victoria, the site of some of the fiercest recent fires, although authorities have not provided further information.
Officials in Victoria issued an emergency warning for seaside towns on the southeastern coast over two bushfires.
The warning, issued on the state’s official website, said that those in the Mallacoota, Karbeethong and Gipsy Point areas need to act immediately to survive.
‘He’s so thirsty’: Cyclists give parched koala a drink amid severe heatwave in Australia
“The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately. It is too late to leave,” read the warning. “Leaving now would be deadly.”
Photos of the Mallacoota area show a reddish-orange glow across the sky as bushfires continue to rage nearby.
There have been nine confirmed casualties this bushfire season, which includes the death of a volunteer firefighter on Monday who was killed after his truck was blown over by strong winds.
Australia has been battling huge bushfires, mostly across its east coast, for several weeks. The blazes have destroyed more than 4 million hectares (10 million acres).
Some firefronts in Australia’s south-east stretch more than 1,000km (621 miles), pressuring the firefighting resources especially in small towns.
— With files by Global News staff
(C) 2019 Reuters