PortandTerminal.com, December 31, 2019
Apocalyptic scenes from coastal Victoria in Australia where 4,000 people are trapped on a beach by advancing fires. Naval ships and helicopters heading to rescue.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – The bush fire crisis in Australia, with its apocalyptic images of blood-red skies and burning forests, has taken a turn for the worse if that is even possible.
There are an estimated 4,000 people trapped on a beach 400 miles south of Sydney as a raging bushfire is headed towards them. The fires have already killed at least 12 people with many more missing. The fire has cornered these 4,000 people and they have been told they’ll have to enter the water as it approaches.
Naval vessels, military helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are being deployed now for evacuations in Victoria at the request of the state government. Meanwhile, police have warned all telecommunications in New South Wales’ south coast will be lost tonight (December 31st) making the coordination of rescue efforts more difficult.
The rescue could involve ferrying people from the beach on inflatable rescue boats to Marine Rescue and Police craft waiting off-shore. There are an estimated 5,000 people sheltering at local beach clubs in the region. Surf lifesavers are providing first aid from oxygen cylinders because of heavy smoke and poor air quality.
The earliest assistance will come from at least seven helicopters and other aircraft with the capacity to drop supplies to towns that are isolated by fire and road closures. But the helicopters will not be able to rescue 4,000 people.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to General Angus Campbell, the Chief of the Defence Force, on Tuesday to confirm all requests for help in NSW and Victoria would be met with no impact on any other part of Australia receiving support. Fires are raging across the country and only getting worse.
Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has authorised new aircraft and ship deployments.
One ship, HMAS Choules, is an amphibious landing ship with a dock for helicopters and the capacity to carry 700 troops at maximum load. The second, MV Sycamore, is a patrol vessel that can carry one helicopter.
Both ships will sail to East Gippsland, the region that includes Mallacoota, where the 4,000 people are trapped on the beach.
The helicopters include a tandem-rotor Chinook for heavy lifting, two Black Hawks and one Taipan naval helicopter.
These will join two C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifters at the Royal Australian Air Force base at East Sale on New Year’s Day, making them available to assist nearby towns such as Mallacoota.
HMAS Choules is expected to take 72 hours to reach the coast of eastern Victoria while the smaller MV Sycamore will be in the region within 48 hours.
Meanwhile, 4,000 terrified people cornered on a beach watch as the fires draw closer to them.
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