PortandTerminal.com, January 1, 2020
Bushfires have killed at least eight people in south-eastern Australia since Monday, while two others remain unaccounted for. 4,000 people remain trapped by the fires on Mallacoota beach. First relief vessel is now on the scene.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – 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 cornered them and they have been told they’ll have to enter the water as it approaches. The situation on the beach appears to have worsened according to first-hand accounts.
Private companies, emergency services and the navy are sending ships and boats to Mallacoota carrying supplies for up to two weeks with the fire-ravaged coastal town still unreachable by road.
First relief vessel on scene
The first relief vessel to arrive is the FAR Saracen, an offshore supply vessel owned by Esso. Esso sent the FAR Saracen and two helicopters to Mallacoota after being asked by state emergency services to provide support.
“We have made an offshore support vessel, the Far Saracen, available and the vessel is now at Mallacoota and supporting response actions there,” an Esso spokesman said.
The fuel company was preparing a second boat to head to the small East Gippsland town in the next 48 hours, it said. Operating out of Longford, south of Sale, the boats and choppers usually supply Esso’s gas rigs in Bass Strait.
“We are preparing a second vessel, the Far Senator, to be available to mobilise to Mallacoota in the coming days.Esso spokesperson
“Two of Esso’s fleet of helicopters are also being made available to evacuate impacted community members from Mallacoota, as well as assist emergency services personnel in getting to those impacted.”
Naval vessels en route
HMAS Choules, one of Australia’s three amphibious ships, has been deployed, while an aviation training vessel, the MV Sycamore, is also on its way to help the stranded. HMAS Choules is an amphibious landing ship with a dock for helicopters that can evacuate 700 people while the MC Sycamore can carry one helicopter.
The two navy ships are expected to arrive on scene on Thursday, January 2nd.
The navy ships and military aircraft have been tasked to deliver water, food and fuel to isolated towns where supplies are being quickly exhausted. Numerous other vessels have been sent including police boats and a medical barge from Sydney which is laden with medical supplies and 25 beds.
Situation on the beach worsens
Meanwhile, the scene on the beach where 4,000 people are trapped is grim. People have been told to enter the water if the fires get too close. It appears that that may have already happened.
Australian ABC news has provided a harrowing first-hand account by Gus Goswell, a journalist, who is trapped on the beach with his family including two-year-old daughter Gilly.
Excerpts of Gus Goswell’s first-hand account follow:
“What the dawn brought to the thousands of us trapped by fire was terrifying. As the bush to the south-west of us exploded in flame and the fire picked up speed as it raced towards us, the smoke turned day into night in minutes“.
“The water was no longer our comfort — suddenly it seemed like our only hope of survival.“
“My family — including our two-year-old daughter — and hundreds of other families, moved to the water’s edge.“
“We turned our backs to shield ourselves from the terrible wind whipping the fire towards us.“
“Many with boats were already in them.“
“The sense of helplessness as we waited for the fire to hit us was unlike anything I have experienced.“
According to his account, the fire shifted at the very last moment and they were saved.
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