World

Australian Navy Rescues Hundreds Of Civilians With Further Bushfires Expected

Around 1,100 people are being rescued from blazes near the coast.

The Royal Australian Navy has sent ships to rescue hundreds of residents from beaches in Australia, as part of one of the largest evacuations in the nation's history.

Tens of thousands of people in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) have been fleeing the coast after being told to expect more bushfires in the coming days.

In Victoria, the Royal Australian Air Force is assisting evacuation efforts while two Australian navy ships, MV Sycamore and HMAS Choules, are rescuing around 1,100 civilians from the coastal town of Mallacoota.

HMAS Choules Commander Scott Houlihan said 963 people had signed up for evacuation by sea and more had been airlifted to safety.

During the past three months, almost 30,000 square miles of land have burned, at least 19 people have been killed, and more than 1,400 homes have been destroyed due to the raging fires. 

Tens of thousands were urged to flee on Friday as conditions look to worsen. The military has been on hand in humanitarian and firefighting roles.

In a statement released by the Australian Department of Defence, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is said to be "escalating its contribution to firefighting efforts across the nation".

Two Joint Task Forces have been established to bolster emergency efforts in NSW and Victoria.

In NSW, the task force supported 250 personnel in "engineering reconnaissance" - to establish evacuation options for operations in the coming days.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrew declared a disaster across much of the eastern part of the state, allowing the government to order evacuations in an area with as many as 140,000 permanent residents and tens of thousands more holidaymakers.

"If you can leave, you must leave," Mr Andrews said.

The Department of Defence announced plans that continued support over the next five days.

An Australian MRH-90 Taipan helping with wildfires 311219 CREDIT ADF.jpg
An Australian MRH-90 Taipan helping with wildfires earlier in the week (Picture: Australian Defence Force).

The two vessels will continue rescue work, including the relocation of  "vulnerable and high-priority people to Westernport", while an additional C-27 Spartan aircraft will join two others in firefighting efforts.

Two CH-47 Chinooks are also set to help combat the fires, providing humanitarian support to remote areas.

This week, at least 448 homes have been destroyed on the southern coast of the state of New South Wales (NSW) and dozens were burned in Victoria.

Ten deaths have been confirmed in the states of Victoria and NSW this week, Victorian authorities announcing that 28 people are also missing.

Fires are also burning in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.

The state authorities declared a seven-day state of emergency to allow for road closures and forced evacuations after forecasters warned of high temperatures and strong winds for Saturday.

Cover image: Evacuees from Mallacoota are transferred to HMAS Choules to escape bushfires (Picture: Australian Department of Defence).