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At least 4,000 people are trapped on the coastal town of Mallacoota
Three people caught in bushfires in Australia's southeast are feared dead, officials said on Tuesday as thousands of tourists, residents remain stranded because of fires encircling the region.
On Monday, a volunteer firefighter died while combating bushfires that have destroyed 3 million hectares of land in Australia.
Preliminary reports claimed three potential fatalities in small towns in the state of New South Wales, said New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. He also said that police were unable to reach the locations due to the ongoing threat from massive blazes.
Thousands of residents and tourists are trapped on a beach in southeast Australia as massive bushfires ringed the area making the escape from the land difficult.
At least 4,000 people are trapped in the coastal town of Mallacoota because of the bushfires that cut off main in and out road of the town. Residents and holiday makers were forced to head to the gymnasium or waterfront.
The authorities said that nearby fires were causing extreme thunderstorms and "ember attacks".
"We've got a fire that looks like it's about to impact on Mallacoota," Victoria's Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp told public broadcaster ABC. He also said firefighters have been deployed to rescue the stranded people.
Locals and tourists holding tight on the #Mallacoota wharf as the bushfire passes through the popular seaside summer holiday spot #AustraliaBurns (📷 from ‘travelling_aus_family’ on Instagram). pic.twitter.com/NfQxlwObxv— Siobhan Heanue (@siobhanheanue) December 31, 2019
"We've got three strike teams in Mallacoota that will be looking after 4,000 people down on the beach there," Crisp said. "We're naturally very concerned about communities that have become isolated."
Reportedly, preparations are also underway for a sea or airborne rescue if required.
Many residents said on social media said that they were wearing life jackets if they needed to seek refuge in the water to escape fires. Some social media posts also showed blood-red, smoke-filled skies.
Bushfire-affected areas can reach a temperature of up to 100 degrees, killing anybody within that region even before the flames reach them.
The ocean is the "last resort option" as per Victoria's emergency management agency.
In New South Wales coast too, similar warnings were made that many "dangerous" fires are spreading rapidly and people in the region should take shelter on beaches if necessary.
"These fires moved quickly this morning. They pose a serious threat to life. Do not be in their path. Avoid bushland areas. If the path is clear, move to larger towns or beaches to take shelter," New South Wales Rural Fire Service said.
(with inputs from Reuters and AFP)