Raging wildfires trap 4,000 at Australian town’s waterfront

PERTH, AUSTRALIA (AP) — Wildfires burning across Australia’s two most-populous states yesterday trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions, destroyed many properties and caused at least two 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 for four people missing.

“We can’t confirm their whereabouts,” Andrews told reporters yesterday.

He has requested assistance from 70 firefighters from the United States (US) and Canada. Victoria Emergency Services Commissioner Andrew Crisp confirmed “significant” property losses across the region. Fire conditions worsened in Victoria and New South Wales states after oppressive heat on Monday mixed with strong winds and lightning strikes.

New South Wales Police confirmed yesterday 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 for another man missing.

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

Firefighters hose down trees as they battle against bushfires around the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales. PHOTO: AFP