Fire crews in South Australia are bracing for a day of extreme fire-weather on Friday as traffic queues, blocked roads and fuel shortages hamper the mass evacuation of the nation’s bushfire-ravaged southeast.
The worst blazes continue to burn in Victoria’s east and on the NSW south coast, where thousands of holiday-makers and residents have been urged to flee ahead of catastrophic fire conditions on Saturday.
Late on Thursday night, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed a second person had died in the state’s bushfires and declared a state of disaster for its hardest-hit regions.
The man is believed to have suffered a medical episode while fighting the fires, and was found by family at a property in Maramingo Creek near Genoa on Wednesday evening.
Eighteen people have died and more than 1400 homes have been destroyed this bushfire season with more hot, windy weather on the way across the country. Seventeen people remain missing in Victoria, and one person in NSW.
In Adelaide, the temperature is expected to top 40C on Friday, and 45C in other parts of South Australia, where three out-of-control bushfires are threatening to jump containment lines.
“If you live near any existing fires you need to enact your bushfire survival plan as these fires may increase in ferocity,” Country Fire Service chief officer Mark Jones warned South Australians.
“There are millions of sparks out there ready to go tomorrow if they break,” he added ominously.
It comes as power cuts, patchy telecommunications, food queues and water shortages frustrate residents and trapped tourists in isolated communities in NSW and Victoria.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison experienced some of that frustration first-hand on Thursday when an angry local verbally abused him during a visit to the NSW Bega Valley town of Cobargo, where the fires have claimed lives as well as homes, businesses, livestock and pasture in recent days.
Soon after the visit, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud announced disaster relief payments would be extended to Bega Valley bushfires survivors.
NSW faces a two-day total fire ban and the third state of emergency in as many months as evacuation orders are issued for much of the state’s southeast from Friday and the Rural Fire Service warns some towns cannot be defended.
With many roads blocked and more than 110 fires burning across the state, police were forced to escort convoys of cars as they threaded their way through the blazes to safety.
In Victoria, the military is helping relief operations in the state’s fire-savaged East Gippsland using Black Hawk helicopters and naval vessels.
The Country Fire Authority has declared a total fire ban across much of state from Friday as the navy prepares to evacuate 800 people trapped in Mallacoota.
The town was hit by a massive blaze on Tuesday as 4000 people sheltered on a beach amid apocalyptic scenes that were broadcast across the globe.
More than 50 fires are raging across Victoria and 17 people remain missing with grave fears for their safety.