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Young children and parents wearing green, naval lifevests and holding a security rope as they are evacuated by sea
Residents were told during a community meeting last night that only school-age children could be evacuated via boat because evacuees would be required to use ropes to get on board. Photo: Royal Australian Navy

Massive fire evacuation by sea underway in Australia

PortandTerminal.com, January 3, 2019

One of the largest evacuations in Australia’s history began on Friday ahead of hot weather and strong winds that are forecast to worsen the devastating wildfires raging across the country.

MALLACOOTA, AUSTRALIA – Australian Navy landing vessels have started to evacuate people trapped by the ongoing bushfires at Mallacoota. So far almost 1,000 people have been evacuated using two naval vessels – the MV Sycamore and the much larger HMAS Choules.

READ: Navy to evacuate hundreds trapped in Mallacoota.

People were loaded onto small landing craft and then transferred over to the two naval vessels which are sitting offshore. The evacuees are being taken to Western Port, approximately 16 hours from Mallacoota.

About 4,000 people, including some 3,000 tourists, have been stranded in the town since they were forced to shelter on the foreshore as the fire approached on New Year’s Eve.

Some evacuees took an amphibious cargo vehicle called a LARC to get to HMAS Choules. Photo: Department of Defense

With roads cut off, the military also evacuated around 60 people by helicopter on Thursday. The air has so far been too smoky for further air evacuations.

The evacuation was voluntary. By Thursday night, 963 had signed up for the boats, with a few more doing so on Friday morning, Commander Scott Houlihan said.

The larger ship, HMAS Choules, has a “few hundred beds”. Further trips are possible, depending on demand.

The evacuees were allowed to take their pets on the ship.

People aboard the the HMAS Choules

Meanwhile, the bushfire situation in Australia is getting worse. The Australian state of New South Wales has declared a state of emergency and could begin forced evacuations from fire-stricken areas, as emergency crews battle deadly blazes and brace for a dangerous weekend ahead.

Summer in Australia is just getting started.

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