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Wildfires trap Australians on beaches for New Years Eve

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on December 31, 2019 - Duration: 02:12s

Wildfires trap Australians on beaches for New Years Eve

Sydney held its lavish fireworks display on New Year's Eve, after, down the coast, thousands were left trapped on beaches by raging bushfires.

David Doyle reports.

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Wildfires trap Australians on beaches for New Years Eve

Huge crowds thronged to Sydney's harbor for a lavish New Years Eve fireworks display on Tuesday (December 31).

Even as, south of the festivities, thousands trapped on beaches witnessed a more ominous spectacle - the smoke from advancing bushfires turning the heavens malevolent tinges of orange and red.

In the towns of Mallacoota and Bateman's Bay, roads have been cut off.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) JAYDE QUINN FOR INSTAGRAM @LAPPINGTHEISLAND SAYING: "We can't get out of Batemans Bay because all the highways are blocked" The government has readied naval vessels and helicopters to help with evacuations and urged people to take shelter closer to the beach as flames moved up the coast.

More than 200 fires are now burning across the southeastern states of Victoria and New South Wales - severing power, mobile and internet links and threatening several towns.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) RESIDENT LOUISE AKINSON, SAYING: "Well, it was, once the front hit, the winds just picked up and then it just took off and that was it.

Everything just went woof." The bushfires have destroyed more than 10 million acres - with new fires sparked into life almost daily by extremely hot and windy conditions in bushland left tinder dry by three years of drought.

For some firefighters like Mick Buchanan there's a sense of helplessness.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) FIREFIGHTER MICK BUCHANAN, SAYING: "It was always going to come one day, and the conditions are now dry everywhere you know, you've got no chance, no water, nothing." Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said it was going to be a long, difficult, dangerous night.

That was emphasized in a video released on Tuesday, showing a fire truck surround by bushfires, firefighters sheltering from the inferno inside.

Bushfires are also infringing on the outskirts of Sydney cloaking the city's year end party in smoke.

Despite some call for the fireworks to be called off in solidarity with fire-hit areas, authorities pressed ahead - saying that planning for the event started 15 months ago.

And, the budget had been already allocated and adding that a donation link was being projected onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons throughout the night.

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