The Australian Navy has evacuated hundreds of people, trapped in their city by devastating forest fires, causing at least 20 deaths.
The Australian Navy began Friday 3rd January 2020 the evacuation of hundreds of people trapped in a city in the southeast surrounded by fires, on the eve of a weekend for which the country fears further aggravation of forest fires.
Refugees on the waterfront
A landing craft from HMAS Choules made round trips between this warship and the locality of Mallacoota, taking care of families sometimes with their pets and some personal effects.
Some residents of this city in the state of Victoria had been refugees since New Year’s Eve on the waterfront to protect themselves.
“A thousand people are expected to have been evacuated from the area this afternoon,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Hundreds of millions of animals killed
According to researchers at Sidney University, quoted by News.com.au , nearly 500 million animals died in the fires: mammals, reptiles and birds.
At least 20 dead
At least 20 people have died, dozens more are missing and more than 1,300 homes have been reduced to ashes since the start of the fire season in September. An area equivalent to twice Belgium burned.
However temperatures must rise to exceed 40 ° C on Saturday and the authorities have declared a state of emergency in the south-east of the country, the most populated region of the island continent.
Orders have been given to tens of thousands of people to evacuate to three states.
“There is still a window to leave,” said New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
“If you don’t need to be in the area, go! The window will close.”
Thousands of tourists and residents have left the most exposed regions over an area of around 300 kilometres along the East Coast, causing huge traffic congestion on the roads to Sydney and Canberra.
New South Wales Minister of Transport Andrew Constance called it “the largest evacuation operation ever launched in the region”.
In the north of the town of Nowra, families waited in near-stationary vehicles loaded with bicycles or surfboards.
Eloise Givney, 26, managed to flee under police escort when she and others had spent four days without electricity, telephone or internet.
“The flames approached up to 50 meters from us. We had to drive among them because it was the only way to leave, ”she told AFP, describing flames 15 meters high on both sides of the road.
“We were stranded without power for four days. We had five children with us but no food for a day.”
“You will no longer have our votes”
Military planes have also dropped food in isolated areas.
Prime Minister of Victoria Dan Andrews said satellite phones were dropped as well as supplies of water and emergency equipment.
The centre-right Prime Minister, who had been stranded for a family vacation in Hawaii in December when his country was burning and is regularly attacked on its poor climate record, was criticized again, this time for its crisis management.
In the town of Cobargo, Mr Morrison was heckled, in particular by a crying young mother and a volunteer firefighter who refused to shake his hand, before retreating into his convoy under a volley of insults.
“You will no longer have our votes, buddy,” shouted a resident. ” It is unfair. We are totally forgotten here, ”complained a resident.
“People are angry, they have lost a lot, they are on edge,” conceded the Prime Minister. “I completely understand how people feel. I don’t take it personally. ”
Forest fires, particularly virulent this year, also have an impact on major Australian cities. Melbourne and Sydney were still breathing the fumes of the surrounding fire on Friday, while the Canberra international tennis tournament had to be relocated to Bendigo (Victoria).