A seven-day state of emergency has been called in the Australian state of New South Wales amid raging wildfires that have killed eight people in the region since Monday, including volunteer firefighters, according to officials.
Military helicopters and naval vessels have been deployed to deliver water, food and fuel to remote areas which are difficult to reach by road. The Australian Defense Force has sent navy ships to Mallacoota on a two-week supply mission, according to Victoria Emergency Commissioner Andrew Crisp, who added that firefighters would be flown in via helicopter do the the lack of access.
Conditions are expected to worsen in coming days, with Australia's Bureau of Meteorology predicting temperatures to soar above 104 degrees in NSW, Victoria and western parts of the country.
Imagery from Sentinel-2A showing the Clyde Mountain Fire (near Batemans Bay, NSW) and associated cumulus flammagenitus (pyrocumulus) at around 11:07 AEDT. https://t.co/ohYVNkmbjd pic.twitter.com/PrTn0C2Ru2— Andrew Miskelly (@andrewmiskelly) December 31, 2019
"We don’t take these decisions lightly but we also want to make sure we’re taking every single precaution to be prepared for what could be a horrible day on Saturday," said state governor Gladys Berejiklia in a press conference. This marks the third time such a declaration was made since the fires began in November, reports NBC News.
Rescue teams are struggling to reach some rural areas, a New South Wales fire information spokesperson told NBC News.
In the coastal town of Mallacoota, Victoria, where roughly 4,000 people were stranded on the beach while trying to escape the flames earlier this week were finally being relocated by the country's Defence Force on Thursday.
An emergency declaration was also made in the Australian Capital Territory, which includes Canberra, in response to thick smoke and dangerously poor air quality. The smog resulted in the cancellation of Canberra's New Year's Eve celebration and national parks and public libraries in the region have been closed to encourage people to stay indoors. -NBC News
More than 10 million acres have been burned by the fires since the fires began in early October, and over 1,000 homes destroyed following the country's second driest period on record since 1902. Average rainfall has also been down the most months nationwide in three years.
the 2019 california fires burnt 253000 acres— ʜᴏʟʟʏ¹²⁷ ♡ (@chaelixutopia) January 2, 2020
the 2019 amazon fires burnt 2.2m acres
the 2019 nsw fires burnt 9.9m acres and rising
the 2019 australia wide fires have burnt over 12.3m acres and is rising
it’s only just begun. #bushfiresAustralia #ausfires pic.twitter.com/rYI96mppZS
The drought and now the fires have depleted the country's drinking water supplies - with storage sitting at 45.8 percent as of Wednesday, down 8% from last year according to the report. New South Wales was affected the most, with their water storage down to 24.5% of normal.
The Australian public, meanwhile, has begun to blame Prime Minister Scott Morrison over a poor government response - with the hashtags #NotMyPrimeMinister and #ScotMoResign trending.
On Thursday, an angry group of residents in New South Wales confronted Morrison yelling expletives over their frustration of rural fire crews not receiving enough funding and resources.
"No, you're an idiot mate. You really are," one man was heard shouting in the town of Cobargo, captured in video by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "You won't be getting any votes around here buddy," another man said.
Morrison responded saying he understood the "very strong feelings that people have, they've lost everything." -NBC News
Meanwhile, 39 firefighters and two liaison officers from the United States arrived in Melbourne Thursday to support over 1,000 local crew, and another 71 firefighters from the US and Canada will arrive next week.