Four Missing, Military Called In After Horror Bushfires Raze Victorian Towns
Four people are unaccounted for and the military are being called in after a horrific bushfire day in Victoria.
Vision of blackened morning skies that later burned bright red and news that thousands were being directed to take shelter in the ocean left the nation in shock on Tuesday morning.
Now Navy vessels, Military helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are being prepared to help with more evacuations and assessing damage.
"(The) federal government, especially our defence forces, are working together with the Victorian Government to respond to Victorian bushfires," Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said up to 40 military personnel will help assess the fire damage starting on Wednesday.
Requests for 70 firefighters have also been made to Canada and the United States.
Four people remain missing in the Victorian fires, with Premier Daniel Andrews earlier confirming they are not firefighters.
"We do have very real fears for their safety," he told reporters.
On Tuesday morning, residents in the East Gippsland town of Mallacoota fled to the shore as the bushfires breached the town's defences.
Sirens from firetrucks in the town went off at 8.30 am as the bushfire reached the edge of the town.
Resident Don Ashby told ABC Gippsland Radio the sky had turned black.
“The agreement was when all the trucks turn the sirens on that was when the fire hit and everybody had to go and get down to the waterline and get underwater,” he said.
"It's like the darkest, darkest night."
Andrew Crisp, Emergency Management Commissioner for Victoria, told ABC24 about 4,000 people had taken shelter on the foreshore.
Many had spent the night on the jetty, preparing to jump into the water if it was necessary.
Residents have been providing updates from the foreshore on social media as the flames rage on.
Twitter user Brendan said the sounds of gas bottles could be heard exploding as the fire moved through the town, and there was a loud bang, believed to have been the local service station's LPG stock.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed four people, who are not firefighters, are missing in the East Gippsland region.
"There are four people unaccounted for. We can't confirm their whereabouts," he told reporters.
Properties have also been lost in the area.
Andrews had been text messaging with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday morning about support for the recovery effort.
"We've made some requests to the (Australian Defence Force) for their support, both in terms of making damage assessments but also some of these isolated communities can be accessed by sea," he said.
Fires have ripped through more than 200,000 hectares in Victoria's East Gippsland, it was estimated early on Tuesday morning.
But the damage is expected to be much worse, with incident controller Chris Eagle telling the ABC lightning in the region had sparked "hundreds" of new fires overnight.
By Monday evening, as temperatures soared and the fires started creating their own weather systems, about 1000 firefighters were working on the blazes.
"There's a lot of fire, a lot of activity, there's likely to be impact to residents because of just the sheer size - exactly how many, where they are, what that means we don't know yet," Mr Eagle said.
"We do know that the fire has increased immensely in size.
"The satellite took an image of some of the heat tracks, it's several hours old now, but it's probably close to at least 60 per cent larger than it was yesterday, so much, much larger and that starts right up north of Gelantipy."
Seven emergency warnings, the highest alert, remain in place across East Gippsland and there is another in place for a fire straddling the northeast Victoria-NSW border at Corryong/Walwa.
Towns, including Cann River Orbost, had been impacted by the fire and impact assessment teams will be sent out to discover the extent of the damage.
Town perimeter defences were breached by fires in Bruthen on Monday around 9pm, the CFA said.
Many of the fires in the region merged overnight.
A cool change swept through the region as expected after extreme heat on Monday, but windy conditions remain, further fuelling the fires and spreading ash.
Mr Eagle said because the fires were generating their own wind systems, it delayed the arrival of the cool change.
Feature Image: Twitter/ @bluesfestblues