Authorities in Australia are asking tens of thousands of holidaymakers in the state of Victoria to leave amid worsening bushfires.
With more than a hundred fires continuing to burn across Australia and conditions expected to worsen due to thunderstorms and strong winds, emergency services have said they cannot help everybody amid an unprecedented bushfire emergency.
It is believed that around 30,000 tourists as well as 45,000 locals were told to leave on Sunday in what could be one of the biggest mass evacuations in Australia’s history.
With temperatures reaching about 40C, Monday is expected to bring a day of ‘extreme danger’ according to officials.
They have said that choosing to ignore the warnings ‘could be suicide’.
Conditions in the East Gippsland region are believed to be so dangerous, that the only road in – and out – of its tourist towns may be inaccessible by morning.
Emergencies chief Andrew Crisp said: ‘What we are saying now, based on the conditions that will be confronting us tomorrow across the state, but in particular in East Gippsland, is that if you’re holidaying in that part of the state, it’s time that you left.’
East Gippsland Mayor John White said bushland in the region was bone dry after three years of drought.
He said: ‘Hopefully people heed the messages. You can rebuild homes, sheds and fences but life is irreplaceable.’
Officials say that any lightning strikes in dry, drought-affected forests have the potential to quickly become fires that threaten lives and homes.
However some are choosing to remain defiant and refuse to leave.
Holiday park managers say some of their customers are ‘choosing to stay’ and have taken a ‘relaxed approach’.
The state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, has been the hardest hit by the bushfires this year.
South Australia also faces dangerous conditions on Monday in three districts, including the Adelaide Hills, where a large blaze continues to smoulder.
New South Wales is also predicted to come under threat from fires on Tuesday, when the wind change will move up the coast.
It comes as more than a quarter of a million people signed a petition demanding that the New Year’s Eve fireworks be cancelled and the money spent on fighting fires.
However the Australian Prime Minister has said Sydney’s famous New Year’s Eve fireworks will go ahead despite the country’s wildfire crisis, but refused to rule out cancelling the display at the last minute.
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