In the southeastern town of Mallacoota, around 4,000 residents fled toward the waterside as winds pushed an emergency-level wildfire towards their homes.

The sky glows red as bushfires continue to rage in Mallacoota, Victoria, Australia, December 31, 2019, in this photo obtained from social media.
The sky glows red as bushfires continue to rage in Mallacoota, Victoria, Australia, December 31, 2019, in this photo obtained from social media. (Reuters)

Wildfires burning across Australia's two most-populous states trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions Tuesday and were feared to have destroyed many properties and caused fatalities.

In the southeastern town of Mallacoota, around 4,000 residents fled toward the waterside as winds pushed an emergency-level wildfire towards their homes. The town was shrouded in darkness from the smoke before turning an unnerving shade of bright red.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said there were plans to evacuate the trapped people by sea. There were grave fears remain for four people missing.
"We can't confirm their whereabouts," Andrews told reporters on Tuesday.

He has requested assistance from 70 firefighters from the US and Canada.

Victoria Emergency Services Commissioner Andrew Crisp confirmed “significant” property losses across the region.

In this file photo, volunteers from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service work to extinguish spot fires following back burning operations in Mount Hay, in Australia’s Blue Mountains, December 28, 2019.
In this file photo, volunteers from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service work to extinguish spot fires following back burning operations in Mount Hay, in Australia’s Blue Mountains, December 28, 2019. (Jill Gralow / Reuters)

Fire conditions worsened in Victoria and New South Wales states after oppressive heat Monday mixed with strong winds and lightning strikes.

New South Wales Police confirmed Tuesday that two men, believed to be father and son, died in a house in the wildfire- ravaged southeast town of Cobargo, while there are fears of another man missing.

"They were obviously trying to do their best with the fire as it came through in the early hours of the morning," New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said. "The other person that we are trying to get to, we think that person was trying to defend their property in the early hours of the morning."

The two confirmed deaths raise the toll to at least 12 in Australia’s wildfires, which also have razed more than 1,000 homes in the past few months.

A firefighter died Monday when extreme winds flipped his truck.
Samuel McPaul, 28, was the third volunteer firefighter in New South Wales to have died in the past two weeks. He was an expectant father.

The state's Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said a “significant” number of properties had been destroyed.

This handout photo taken on December 29, 2019 and received on December 30 from Victoria's Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) shows a helicopter dumping water on a fire in Victoria's East Gippsland region. Tourists and firefighters were forced to flee vast fires burning in southeastern Australia on December 30, as a heatwave rekindled devastating bush blazes across the country.
This handout photo taken on December 29, 2019 and received on December 30 from Victoria's Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) shows a helicopter dumping water on a fire in Victoria's East Gippsland region. Tourists and firefighters were forced to flee vast fires burning in southeastern Australia on December 30, as a heatwave rekindled devastating bush blazes across the country. (AFP)

Some communities have cancelled New Year’s fireworks celebrations, but Sydney’s popular display over its iconic harborfront will go ahead. The city was granted an exemption to a total fireworks ban that is in place there and elsewhere to prevent new wildfires.

Hot temperatures were expected, as was the thick smoke that has shrouded views of the harbour and Sydney Opera House in recent weeks.

The popular celebrations are expected to attract around a million spectators and generate 130 million Australian dollars ($91 million) for the state’s economy.

Source: AP