Australia deploys ships, aircraft to help people cut off by wildfires
Australian military ships and aircraft transport water, food and fuel to communities cut off by wildfires
PERTH Australia deployed military ships and aircraft yesterday to help communities ravaged by apocalyptic wildfires that have left at least 17 people dead nationwide and sent thousands of residents and holidaymakers fleeing to the shoreline.
Navy ships and military aircraft were transporting water, food and fuel to towns where supplies were depleted and roads were cut off by the fires. The authorities confirmed three bodies were found yesterday at Lake Conjola on the south coast of New South Wales, bringing the death toll in the state to 15.
More than 175 homes in the region have been destroyed.
Some 4,000 people in the coastal town of Mallacoota fled to the shore as winds pushed a fire toward their homes under a sky darkened by smoke and turned blood-red by flames. Stranded residents and vacationers slept in their cars, and gas stations and surf clubs transformed into evacuation areas. Dozens of homes burned before winds changed direction late Tuesday, sparing the rest of the town.
Victoria Emergency Commissioner Andrew Crisp told reporters that the Australian Defence Force was moving naval assets to Mallacoota on a supply mission that would last two weeks and helicopters would also fly in more firefighters since roads were inaccessible.
"That was our biggest threat in terms of what are we doing with the children if we need to go in the water to protect ourselves given the fact that they are only one, three and five," tourist Kai Kirschbaum told ABC Australia.
"If you are a good swimmer, it doesn't really matter if you have to be in the water for a longer time, but doing that with three kids would have been, I think, a nightmare."
Conditions cooled yesterday, but the fire danger remained high across the state, where four people are missing.
"We have three months of hot weather to come. We do have a dynamic and a dangerous fire situation across the state," Mr Crisp said.
In the New South Wales town of Conjola Park, 89 properties were confirmed destroyed and cars were melted by Tuesday's fires. More than 100 fires were still burning in the state yesterday, though none were at an emergency level. Seven people have died this week, including a volunteer firefighter, a man found in a burnt-out car and a father and son pair who died in their house.
Firefighters took advantage of easing conditions yesterday to restore power to critical infrastructure and conduct some back burning, before conditions were expected to deteriorate on Saturday as high temperatures and strong winds return.- AP