Raging Wildfires Trap 4000 at Australian Town's Waterfront

Map Active fires 30 December

"Red Sky, Choking Dust": Thousands Trapped On Australia Beaches By Wildfires

Australia's wildfires have razed more than 1,000 homes in the past few months, with the most populous state of New South Wales bearing the brunt.

Authorities have confirmed 43 properties - including homes and a primary school - have been destroyed by bushfire in Gippsland, where more than 400,000 hectares have been burned. Almost 100 fires were burning across the state of New South Wales, which is home to Sydney.

The sky glows red as bushfires continue to rage in Mallacoota, Victoria, Australia.

Fires ravaging Australia since September have left 24 people dead and destroyed some eight million hectares (80,000 square kilometers) of land - an area the size of Ireland or the USA state of SC.

Chile's meteorological service said Monday that smoke from the fires was visible in Chile and Argentina.

"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". Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas. Social media was awash with images of buildings reduced to charred rubble and burnt-out cars. Residents returning home were urged to boil tap water before drinking it.

In Mallacoota, the local fire service said a change in wind direction had taken the worst of the fires away from the town.

Ellie Morello, along with her mother, some neighbors and friends, took refuge in a beach motel when a fire approached Batemans Bay, a town on the coast of New South Wales.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews attended a briefing at the State Control Centre, cutting short his holidays.

Robert Phillips, co-owner of a Mallacoota supermarket, told Reuters he was sheltering around 45 people in his store, while others had headed to the town's main wharf.

"Many of us have mixed feelings about this evening, but the most important thing we make of it is that we are a resilient state", NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

Fire services in the United States and Canada had been asked to provide "specialist aviation resources" to help firefighting efforts, he said.

"We have a dynamic and a risky fire situation across the state", Victoria's Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp told reporters.

A further four people are unaccounted for in the state of Victoria, the site of some of the fiercest recent fires, although authorities have not provided further information.

But city officials said Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks would go head, but a similar event has been cancelled in Canberra and several regional towns. The city was granted an exemption to a total fireworks ban in place there and elsewhere to prevent sparking new wildfires.

Dozens slept overnight at the gates to the free zones around the harbour and hundreds arrived before dawn on Tuesday to grab the best spots to see the Sydney sky lit up with 100,000 fireworks.

As firefighters worked to contain what looks like an apocalyptic fire on the southern coast of New South Wales, two people have died and one person is still reported missing.

"Energy and Utilities have advised that due to the bush fires all power has been lost from South Nowra to Moruya and potentially beyond", New South Wales police said. "The other person that we are trying to get to, we think that person was trying to defend their property in the early hours of the morning".

Police said three more bodies were discovered Wednesday, bringing the confirmed death toll since late Monday to eight, including a volunteer firefighter killed when a "fire tornado" flipped his 10-ton truck. Samuel McPaul, 28, was the third volunteer firefighter in New South Wales to have died in the past two weeks. He was an expectant father.

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