Though New Year’s has made its way to Australia, not many were in celebration mode as fires continued to ravage the country — in one case, trapping thousands of people on beaches. According to CNN, as many as 4,000 people from the town of Mallacoota are currently taking refuge on the beach with no way to escape. They may have to take to the water if the fire begins to approach the shore.
“There’s no way in or out,” Mallacoota resident Jason Selmes said, explaining the dire predicament of those affected.
Those fleeing the fires have described the scene as almost apocalyptic, with the flames turning the sky orange and red and engulfing the landscape with smoke. Though Australia is prone to bushfires due to its arid climate, this season has been the worst on record. The area affected is close to the size of Belgium.
“It was like we were in hell. We were all covered in ash,” described vacationer Zoe Simmons.
Some have taken to boats in the hopes that staying on the water will protect them from the deadly flames. Already, 12 people have died in this year’s fire season.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison cut his holiday vacation short to deal with the crisis. However, there is little that politicians can do.
“What we really need is meaningful rain and we haven’t got anything in the forecast at the moment that says we’re going to get drought-breaking or fire-quenching rainfall,” said New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, via The Washington Post.
— Vicki Ward MP ???? (@VickiWardMP) December 30, 2019
The situation is so severe that residents are being told that it is “too late” to flee the fire and that their best chance at survival is to protect themselves in a shelter.
“It is too late to leave. Seek shelter in a solid structure to protect yourself. Be aware of the danger of falling trees and branches,” read an alert for the Clyde Mountain Area, about three hours away from Mallacoota.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, one man was able to save himself by hiding in a homemade kiln.
The weather has caused power outages, destroyed homes and closed roads. However, even more frightening is the phenomenon of the “fire tornado.” A fire tornado is when violent whirlwinds are composed of flames.
One volunteer firefighter recently lost his life after a fire tornado flipped over his truck. He was only 28-years-old and was expecting his first child with his wife.
Though Sydney participated in its famous fireworks display for New Year’s Eve, fireworks were otherwise banned throughout the country in light of the crisis.