The East Gippsland area in Victoria is facing catastrophic fire conditions over the next day, and in what is one of the most massive evacuations in Australia’s history, 75,000 residents and tourists were ordered to leave the region on Sunday, Dec. 29.
Several bushfires in the region are now burning out of control, with some fires now joined together. With temperatures expected to soar into the 40s (100s F) on Monday, the area will become like an oven.
Bone dry conditions owing to drought for the past three years have created a climate for the fires burning in the region to explode.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said it was now too dangerous for people to leave.
“If you’re not out by 9 am, you’ve got to stay where you are because there’s every chance the Princes Highway could be cut.”
“We almost had that for a few hours yesterday afternoon. In fact, the highway was closed for a few hours with a new fire near Cann River.
“We saw the fire travel 26 kilometers [16 miles] overnight.”
“We definitely have a traffic management plan for the highway,’ Crisp said, adding that once the fire starts to move, the highway will be shut and people will be stuck.”
A fire near Mallacoota began generating its own weather last night, the dots indicate lightning from a pyrocumulonimbus cloud with plume to 14km. More dangerous fire behaviour is expected across #Victoria today. Stay up to date with forecasts and warnings: https://t.co/DDRfwBegeY pic.twitter.com/lmQrpL40YJ
— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) December 29, 2019
“So this is an opportunity, particularly for people who are in the forests or parks to get out now,” said Crisp.
Temperatures across Victoria on Monday are expected to be in the 40s, with a total fire ban in place across the state, and extreme fire danger ratings in most regions reported the Daily Mail.
At 8.30 a.m. on Monday, Vic Emergency was encouraging residents to flee. “Leaving now is the safest option before conditions become too dangerous.
“Leave north on the Great Alpine Road toward Swifts Creek and Omeo.
“Emergency Services may not be able to help you if you decide to stay.”
If conditions allow, on Monday, 70 helicopters and planes will be working to help contain the fires.
“We know one of the greatest risks is for people to get caught on the roads at that dangerous time as the fire comes close,” said Crisp. “This is a high-risk day for Victoria, it is a day we don’t often see,” he told ABC TV.
As of Monday morning [local time], thousands of tourists had decided to ignore demands they leave the region, “The thought was it could have a big impact but … driving around earlier this morning at the moment there’s still a large contingent of holidaymakers in the area,” East Gippsland Shire Council Mayor John White told 3AW radio.
Catastrophic fires are continuing to burn in most other Australian states, with nine lives lost, 911 homes burned and more than 5 million acres of bushland burned so far. The devastation to wildlife has been huge.