In a dire situation, residents in Victoria’s Gippsland region and New South Wales are being urgently instructed to evacuate, as relentless bushfires continue to ravage the area. Fire crews are tirelessly battling the blazes in an effort to gain control. Those residing in six towns have been warned that it is now too late to leave, compelling them to seek shelter immediately.
In New South Wales, the rural fire service has issued emergency alerts to residents in Abernethy, near the Hunter Valley city of Cessnock, as well as in Bermagui, Cuttagee, and Barragga Bay in the Bega Valley on the state’s south coast. These alerts emphatically state that leaving is no longer an option, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
Similarly, residents of Seacombe and Loch Sport, situated in Victoria’s south-eastern Gippsland region, have received urgent warnings that evacuation is no longer feasible. The emergency warning was updated around 2:30 pm, highlighting the imminent danger faced by these communities.
The origin of the fires was identified at Duffy Road, Briagolong, approximately 190 km east of Melbourne. Despite the valiant efforts of the fire crews, the situation remains critical, prompting these urgent evacuation orders to ensure the safety of residents in the affected areas.
In Tasmania, a watch and act alert was issued on Tuesday morning for a fire that had been menacing communities on Flinders Island since Sunday. This alert replaced an earlier emergency alert that had been issued for residents in Pine Scrub, Leeka, and Boat Harbour.
Sandra Knowles, the manager of the Briagolong post office, reported hazy conditions in the town on Tuesday morning, describing it as a thick smoke covering the sun.
“It’s very hazy, like thick smoke covering the sun,” she said. “The sky is grey, and we’re really going to be relying on the rains. There’s no sign of rain yet though.”
Knowles stated that around 4 am on Tuesday morning, the sky in Briagolong had a “huge red glow,” a sight she found extremely frightening.
The wildfire, which had covered 5,000 hectares on Monday, intensified due to strong winds, expanding to approximately 17,000 hectares by Tuesday morning. The rapidly spreading blaze continues to pose a significant threat to the affected regions.
In another alarming incident, a raging fire, originating farther south near Lakeside Track within the Gippsland coastal park, has posed a severe threat to homes and lives. The fire, spiralling out of control, moved southeast after crossing the Longford-Loch Sport Road. Residents in Seacombe and nearby areas, who were unable to evacuate, were urgently advised to seek shelter, amplifying the urgency of the situation.
Steve Hompot, a resident near Loch Sport, expressed immense relief when light rain started falling on Tuesday afternoon. Hompot noted the significant drop in wind, providing a glimmer of hope for the ongoing firefighting efforts.
Country Fire Authority chief officer, Jason Heffernan, had warned on Monday that the next 24 hours would be challenging, with turbulent winds accompanying a cold front expected to exacerbate conditions. He emphasised the double blow faced by East Gippsland communities: first, battling the fire situation, and then dealing with an impending emergency rain event, creating a complex situation for residents and emergency responders.
Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan acknowledged the relentless efforts of firefighters and expressed gratitude to emergency services crews for their dedicated work. She highlighted the state’s varied challenges, including total fire bans in the Mallee region, fires in Gippsland, and predictions of extreme storms and weather events in the central part of the state.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued warnings on Tuesday, alerting people in Central, West, and South Gippsland, as well as parts of East Gippsland, South West, North Central, North East, and Wimmera districts to brace for damaging winds and heavy rainfall.
Meanwhile, in New South Wales, fires continued to burn, although no emergency warnings were in place on Tuesday morning. The rural fire service declared a total fire ban across greater Sydney and several other regions. Temperatures were forecasted to exceed 30 °C in parts of the state, with an extreme fire danger rating for the far south coast, Sydney, greater Hunter, northwestern, and upper central west plains regions on Tuesday. The situation remains critical, urging residents to remain vigilant and adhere to safety instructions.