New South Wales state of emergency declared as 17 missing in Victoria – as it happened

Last modified: 09: 17 AM GMT+0

At least nine people have died since Christmas Day, with more dangerous conditions predicted for the weekend. This blog is now closed.

Just as we close, the New Daily is reporting that an elderly woman has died after going into “respiratory distress” when she arrived on a domestic Qantas flight in Canberra, where air pollution levels have again been at many times hazardous levels today. We’ll have more on that later when details have been confirmed.

Summary

That’s where we’ll end our coverage today, but we’ll be back again tomorrow.

  • Authorities are preparing for catastrophic conditions in NSW again on Saturday
  • The NSW government declared its third state of emergency, beginning on Saturday and running for seven days
  • The ACT has declared a state of alert
  • There are 17 people unaccounted for in Victoria, and one in NSW
  • Across Australian 17 people have died and more than 1,400 homes have been destroyed in bushfires since October
  • There are extraordinary delays and traffic jams on the roads out of South Coast regions, after authorities told all tourists and some residents to leave areas today and tomorrow
  • There are now four leave zones for tourists and/or residents in Snowy Monaro, Shoalhaven, Batlow/Wondalga, and South coast
  • Evacuation orders were made for Kosciusko National Park, where the Dunns Road fire is taking hold
  • Exits were hampered by high crowds, road closures, and fuel shortages
  • Some service station ran out, while others limited people to 50L
  • Victorian authorities also urged people to leave the alpine and East Gippsland regions before the weekend
  • There is a total fire ban for NSW on Friday and Saturday
  • HMAS Choules has arrived offshore at Mallacoota, where residents were told they can choose to evacuate
  • The Navy ship can take 500-1,000 people, but they will have to climb up a rope ladder to get aboard
  • Limited evacuations by air will be organised for elderly and infirm people
  • The conditions are predicted to be extreme in South Australia on Friday, with temperatures in Adelaide of 42C and 45C in the regions
  • Fire chief Mark Jones said the concern was already existing fires. “There are millions of sparks out there ready to go tomorrow if they break containment lines.”
  • The prime minister attended the funeral of firefighter Geoffrey Keaton, who died in December while fighting the Green Wattle Creek blaze
  • Morrison has continued to emphasise the state’s responsibility for disaster response, as he continues to face criticism over the government’s inadequate climate policy, and accusations of a lack of leadership
  • More $21m in commonwealth disaster payments has been paid to fire victims in NSW

The WA fire in Dundas has been downgrade to a Watch and Act.

An angry protester has told Scott Morrison he should be "ashamed of himself" and that he's "left the country to burn" during a tour of the burnt out town of Cobargo late this afternoon. #auspol #NSWbushfires

— Victoria Pengilley (@vicpengilley) January 2, 2020

Desperate scenes in Cobargo. One protester yelling at the PM: "How come we only had four trucks to defend our town? This is not fair, we are totally forgotten about down here." #auspol #NSWbushfires @politicsabc

— Victoria Pengilley (@vicpengilley) January 2, 2020

I’ve just spoken with Brendan, a Mallacoota resident who has been tweeting updates from the town over the past few days.

He’s lived in the East Gippsland town for six months, following his sister who moved their five years ago, and their parents who have lived there for a decade.

The families decided to stay, and to defend his sister’s house.

Brendan’s house is in town, and his parents live further out in a heavily wooded area. They decided his sister’s place was the most defendable should the fire come through.

“It got pretty intense towards the end. Our plans were to be prepared to fight the embers,” he said.

“There was flame just one house away really. We got CFA support at the very last second. But had we not held it back we would have run downstairs and huddled in the corner for the front to pass.”

Live fire in #Mallacoota on Lakeside drive. Tea trees almost exploding. Visible from my sister’s place. pic.twitter.com/GdgoFSvEK4

— Brendan (@brendanh_au) January 1, 2020

The family have pooled their resources and won’t be evacuating. At a community briefing this afternoon, people were told that the elderly and infirm would be evacuated by air if they wanted to to leave. Everyone else who was willing and able to go would be taken out on HMAS Choules, in groups of about 500 to 1000 people, he said.

“It’s not a cruise ship, it’s a navy ship, they’re not guaranteed a bed. They have to climb aboard by a rope.”

He said the mood inside the packed community hall was one of concern, but people were happy the government was doing something to help them.

“There were a lot of visitors here who were not prepared for [the fire],” he said.

“The locals here have been expecting it for quite a while. I mean, you never fully comprehend it but they know we were due for a bushfire.”

I asked him what he thinks the future of the town will be.

“This is a difficult question to answer. We chose to live here for good reason. It’s a fantastic part of the world.

The infrastructure... has been saved by the CFA. The cafe is intact. The school is mostly intact. It means we have a good chance to have a working community.

We think about 20% of the towns buildings were destroyed, so there are a lot of displaced long term residents, and we don’t know how many will rebuild.”

More pictures from Bastion Point in #Mallacoota - HMAS Choules and remains of caravan and bicycles pic.twitter.com/z7J8GVPwW4

— Brendan (@brendanh_au) January 2, 2020

The Bermagui and Eden evacuation centres have been closed, as authorities say they can’t guarantee people’s safety, 10 News is reporting.

Instead, people should go to Club Sapphire at Merimbula, or the Bega Showground.

The situation in Bega has changed dramatically, as authorities have now closed two evacuation centres. @tegangeorge has the latest information, including the facilities currently available. #ausfires #NSWfires #AustraliaBurning pic.twitter.com/0NIihgwSdG

— 10 News First Sydney (@10NewsFirstSyd) January 2, 2020

Wagga Wagga councillor Vanessa Keenan has been thinking about the deputy PM, Michael McCormack.

Here’s a quick news report from Nine about Morrison’s visit to firegrounds today (and the press conference earlier).

Just moments ago, Scott Morrison met with the brave men and women who are fighting the fires on the South Coast, so he could hear their stories. @cokeefe9 #9News pic.twitter.com/cu0fJx0yQC

— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) January 2, 2020

Two weeks ago my sister was having champagne on the deck & celebrating buying her first home. She had started painting the walls and planting a garden. Today she returned to Lake Conjola to see what's left of her place - and we're all heartbroken for her. pic.twitter.com/mrLkhbgh7f

— Eden Gillespie (@edengillespie) January 2, 2020

This report from AAP has more details on the road chaos and related details.

Fuel shortages and long queues are hampering efforts to escape NSW and Victorian bushfire-hit areas.

Victorian authorities have urged tourists and locals to leave the state’s alpine and East Gippsland regions on Thursday.

In NSW, people near Batlow have been asked to leave on Thursday while holidaymakers in the alps and between Nowra and the Victorian border should be out by Friday afternoon.

While supplies are high in most communities, fuel has been restricted at some sites to guarantee that enough remains for firefighters.

Restocking tanks is also an issue, with emergency services due to escort petrol tankers into Moruya on Thursday night.

A 50-litre limit per person was imposed at one Moruya petrol station when it faced running dry within hours with a line stretching more than a kilometre.

Drivers had already bought 55,000 litres in half a day of trade – double January’s daily average.

Further south, some sites at Merimbula, Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance have run out of either petrol or diesel.

Deliveries have been made to key centres Batemans Bay and Eden, where demand remains high.

Caltex said it was doing what it could to deliver more fuel to bushfire-affected areas.

“We thank our customers for their patience as we manage the increased demand at this difficult time,” Caltex spokesman Richard Baker said in a statement.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian on Thursday said she was relieved some towns had power and other services restored.

“We encourage people to exercise caution [driving out],” she told reporters on Thursday.

“We do appreciate that for some, it is difficult to access supplies but it’s much easier than what it was yesterday and the day before.”

Updated

Statewide total fire ban for NSW for Friday and Saturday

Just in from the RFS, there is a total fire ban for the next two days. Commencing at midnight tonight, it covers all NSW local government areas.

No fires may be lit in the open and all fire permits are suspended during a total fire ban.

Updated

The NSW RFS has just issued its fourth leave zone declaration, this time for the Snowy Monaro region. These declarations are directed towards tourists and/or residents in the areas to say they need to leave before Saturday.

Keep in mind the road chaos at the moment, and exercise some patience – the NSW police said conditions are continuously changing and sections of roads closing and opening periodically as the fire emergency continues.

The four zones are:
Snowy Monaro: tourist leave zone
Shoalhaven:
leave zone
Batlow/Wondalga: leave zone
South coast: tourist leave zone

Tourist Leave Zone - Snowy Monaro
Widespread extreme Fire Danger forecast for Snowy Monaro this Sat 4 Jan 2020. If you're holidaying in the Snowy Monaro Region, you need to leave before Sat. For road closure info go to @LiveTrafficNSW #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/NLkWubxqvC

— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 2, 2020

Leave Zone - Shoalhaven
Widespread extreme Fire Danger forecast for Shoalhaven Sat 4 Jan 2020. If you're holidaying in areas identified on the map, you need to leave before Saturday. Residents should be aware & prepare. For road closure info @LiveTrafficNSW #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/rmDW7tZlnp

— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 2, 2020

Leave Zone – Batlow / Wondalga
Dangerous conditions in Batlow, west of Blowering Dam. If you're in this area, particularly Batlow north to Wondalga & west of Blowering Dam, leave before tomorrow. It is not safe. For road closures go to @LiveTrafficNSW #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/GA0xJjlCQH

— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 2, 2020

Tourist Leave Zone – South Coast Bush Fires

Dangerous conditions for holiday makers on the South Coast of NSW this weekend

With the widespread power and communications outages across the South Coast please share this information to as many affected people as possible. #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/JvbwrpC1fe

— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 1, 2020

Updated

A quick roundup of the most serious fires across the states.

In NSW there are no emergency level fires, just three watch and acts. But there are serious concerns over the Dunns Road fire, which has prompted the evacuation of Kosciuszko national park.

In Victoria there are 11 watch and act warnings for fires, predominately in the East Gippsland region.

In South Australia there is one watch and act on Kangaroo Island – that’s the Ravine fire.

In Western Australia there is one emergency warning for a fire at the Balladonia roadhouse in Dundas. That fire is threatening lives and homes.

In Tasmania there are six watch and act warnings issued for fires near Hobart and in the north-east.

Updated

Good afternoon everyone. Helen here to take you through the evening.

The pressing concern at the moment is traffic. Thousands of people have taken to the roads, ordered to get out of the south coast regions before Saturday. But it’s gridlock with road closures, grass fires and other delays. We are getting reports and seeing vision of cars at standstill, with the main pinchpoints seeming to be at Ulladulla to the north and Cooma to the south-west.

If you are there and know more, please get in touch.

Updated

I am going to hand you over to Helen Davidson for the remainder of the evening.

I’ll be back with my colleagues tomorrow – take care of you.

Updated

FFS. NSW police media have just released this statement:

A man will face court today charged after a fire was allegedly deliberately lit in Sydney’s east yesterday.

About 3.30pm (Wednesday 1 January 2020), police were called to a small park in Cox Avenue, Bondi Beach, following reports of a small fire after a brown paper bag filled with dried leaves had allegedly been deliberately lit.

Officers from Eastern Suburbs Police Area Command attended and were approached by members of the public, who had extinguished the fire and followed a man leaving the scene.

Police spoke with the 34-year-old man before searching him and seizing a cigarette lighter.

He was taken to Waverley police station and charged with intentionally cause fire and be reckless to its spread.

The Bondi man was refused bail to appear at Parramatta bail court today.

Updated

Our neighbour, Indonesia, is experiencing its worse flooding in a decade as Australia burns.

A world of weather extremes: Australia burns, Indonesia floods. 21 people dead and 30,000 homeless in Jakarta’s worst flooding in years. More downpours forecast #banjir2020 https://t.co/dOFiiUQ3vZ

— Renae Henry (@renaehenry9) January 2, 2020

Updated

Bushfire emergency declared for Hobart

A bushfire emergency has been declared for the outskirts of Hobart.

You can follow along here.

Lives and homes are in danger.

Bushfire emergency declared on Hobart's outskirts, lives and homes in danger https://t.co/N1Er463Gul

— ABC News (@abcnews) January 2, 2020

Updated

The air quality in Canberra is slowly shutting down businesses

ANU has shut its campuses until Tuesday due to the smoke. #canberrasmoke pic.twitter.com/LD8RwvKyFn

— Sally Whyte (@sallywhyte) January 2, 2020

And meanwhile

Well, that escalated quickly @AngusTaylorMP office has just contacted me to say he will not be attending the event https://t.co/OiiACMi9xi

— 𝕤𝕒𝕞𝕒𝕟𝕥𝕙𝕒 𝕞𝕒𝕚𝕕𝕖𝕟 (@samanthamaiden) January 2, 2020

Fuel scarcity remains another big issue for those trying to get through.

Phil Coorey:

That is what I am worried about. It is petrol. I just pulled into a petrol station to see them and let them know if anyone is planning on leaving, and a tanker came through and filled them up, so there is one pump I think between Cooma and Bega.

I am hoping to God all those people have full tanks.

But there are families, boats, it is a nightmare.

It is not good.

I do hope they’ll get through tonight.

Coorey says a lack of information is one of the biggest problems:

Trying to get information, reliable information. There are a lot of rumours. A couple of days ago I heard another town 15km [away] had been burnt out. I just drove through it and it was fine.

And someone said they had turned the water off, but they haven’t.

The phones went down, the power went out, those sorts of things. You are sitting in a blackout, and ironically, it is a relative back in Canberra and Sydney – it looks a lot worse to them.

Updated

Phil Coorey says the smoke has followed him the entire trip:

It is completely shrouded in smoke. The whole Snowy Mountains Highway, probably about 200, 300m. At ground level, you are not just sitting in traffic with your engine running and no petrol stations on that trip, but the smoke is thick.

The town was burning about three days ago, they just opened the road in the last couple of days to get people out.

There is no fire there today.

You hope to God nothing happens in the next 12 hours until they get people out of there.

If I was leaving the south coast, I would leave it till very late tonight or first thing tomorrow morning before dawn. If you go now, you will go into the back of a big mess.

Updated

The Australian Financial Review political editor Phil Coorey is speaking to the ABC about what is happening in the south coast as people attempt to evacuate.

As I was going from Cooma to Bega, they have told everyone to get out, get out of the south coast, but there doesn’t seem to be a deal of organisation.

There are a great deal of towns, I measured my odometer as I drove the other way. 25km long.

That was an hour ago. There was hundreds of thousands of cars as I got past the tailback coming the other way already to add to it.

They are towing boats, and I have no idea how anyone in these little towns, getting traffic through, I stopped at an RFS checkpoint and told them and they said they were aware of it, the police are too stretched.

I did hear the prime minister on the radio talking about getting the military out, but I didn’t see anyone.

I saw one police car the entire trip. I think people are going to be stuck on the mountain all night tonight trying to get home.

It strikes me as crazy. You tell an entire coastline to evacuate by one mountain road with next to zero traffic management.

Updated

Oh look, it's the missing opening scene from the first Mad Max: https://t.co/GzDMcSmQ2f

— Dylan McConnell (@dylanjmcconnell) January 2, 2020

This has just come through.

A contingent of 39 firefighters pose for a photo at Melbourne airport shortly after arriving from north America on Thursday. The firefighters will assist local crews with ongoing fires burning across Victoria.
A contingent of 39 firefighters pose for a photo at Melbourne airport shortly after arriving from north America on Thursday. The firefighters will assist local crews with ongoing fires burning across Victoria. Photograph: Julian Smith/EPA

Updated

Mike Kelly has just had a chat to us to update us on what is happening in his electorate.

Evacuations through the electorate of Monaro are just continuing through the Brown Mountain route - which Kelly says is the only one open.

He says he has been looking at the possibility of setting up an evacuation centre in the ACT or Queanbeyan given that Bega is getting over run.

He is looking at stop over capacity for those trying to get through to Victoria - maybe the Queanbeyan showgrounds.

“Hopefully what we can do is just keep people moving, because the air quality is appalling at the moment, this is not just a great place for stopping people over.”

For residents left in those towns, the advice is still to get to the bigger centres and follow directions.

ACT chief minister Andrew Barr has cut his holiday short and is on his way back to the territory, given the warnings for Saturday.

He should be back tomorrow afternoon.

The PM and his wife have arrived in Bega and are meeting with RFS volunteers, who are about to head out again. @10NewsFirstSyd @10Daily #ausfires pic.twitter.com/yNdQ5zAndh

— Tegan George (@tegangeorge) January 2, 2020

There is going to be a lot of cars stuck between #Milton and #Ulladulla overnight. If you are trying to head north maybe stop at Ulladulla if you make it that far - unless you’re a local and you know the backroads #trafficmeltdown #NSWfires

— Nick McLaren (@nickpmclaren) January 2, 2020

It hasn’t got as much attention, but South Australia is also still suffering.

A desperate attempt is under way to build control lines around a massive bushfire on Kangaroo Island before a coming wind change on Friday that could move it across the island. https://t.co/yEpHWbguBG

— The Advertiser (@theTiser) January 2, 2020

Updated

Many other roads remain closed including:

South of Nowra

• Jerrawangala to Tomerong: Turpentine Road is closed

• Wandandian: Wandean Road is closed between the Princes Highway and Bollerang Road

• Nowra Hill to Charleyong: Braidwood Road/Nerriga Road is closed

Around Braidwood

• Braidwood to Nelligen: the Kings Highway is closed

• Braidwood to Moruya: Araluen Road is closed

• Braidwood to Cooma: Cooma Road is closed

In and around the Snowy Mountains

• Tumut to Adaminaby: the Snowy Mountains Highway is closed

• Batlow to Tumbarumba: Batlow Road is closed

• Jindabyne to Khancoban: Alpine Way is closed

A number of smaller local roads are also closed in the south coast and Snowy Mountains areas, and many roads crossing the NSW-Victorian border are also closed, including the Monaro Highway between Rockton and Cann River (Victoria).

Up-to-the-minute information about road closures is available at livetraffic.com.

Updated

The Princes Highway remains open in the following locations:

• Between Tomerong and Nowra

• Between Moruya and Narrabarba (south of Eden)

The Snowy Mountains Highway is open at Bega so anyone on the far south coast can travel to Canberra or Sydney via the Snowy Mountains Highway to Cooma, the Monaro Highway to Canberra and the Hume Highway.

Motorists are advised to allow plenty of extra travel time as traffic on the Snowy Mountains Highway is very heavy.

Motorists in these areas are advised to exercise extreme caution, follow the directions of emergency services and traffic crews and drive with headlights switched on due to smoke in the area.

Updated

We have a road closure update for you, for those in NSW:

The Transport Management Centre is currently advising (current as at 3.45pm):

The Princes Highway is now closed between Milton and Tomerong due to a bushfire.

• Motorists heading north from areas between Batemans Bay and Milton are advised to delay their trip, as the road is expected to remain closed for several hours due to fire activity.

• Motorists already on the highway are advised to stop in Milton or Ulladulla.

• There is very heavy northbound traffic on the Princes Highway heading towards Milton.

The Princes Highway is also closed in the following locations:

• Between Batemans Bay and Moruya

• Between Narrabarba (south of Eden) and Cann River (Victoria)

From Narrabarba, you can travel west on Imlay Road to the Monaro Highway to head north.

Josh Frydenberg said Scott Morrison will tour the Victorian fires in “the coming days”.

Updated

The treasurer has also defended the prime minister’s response so far:

Well, I understand he will be in Victoria shortly. And he’s been in other affected areas. And he’s called a meeting of the national security committee of cabinet of which I’m a member on Monday and will be going through further steps.

But he’s in constant contact with his colleagues, with state premiers, getting briefings from emergency management Australia, as well as he indicated today the CDF.

On the cost of the disaster, Josh Frydenberg says it is too early to tell.

But that is not our primary concern. Our primary concern is not about the financial cost. It’s about the human cost of these tragic fires. So we are working, the ADF, Emergency Australia, upstairs you have the NBN Co that’s helping to get telecommunication networks up and running.

You have the Australian Energy Market Operator that is working with other organisations to ensure the energy grid stays stable and support can get to those who need it.

The Bureau of Meteorology are here. Working with our state counterparts to ensure that people get the support that they need.

Josh Frydenberg is holding a press conference. He has just been given an update on the Victorian situation and seems visibly shaken. He is also asked about the Morrison government’s climate change policies:

Our focus is on meeting our Paris commitments. And that is a 28% reduction by 2030 on 2005 levels. And just as we beat our first Kyoto target and on track to beat our 2020 target, we’re confident we’ll beat our 2030 target. Climate change is real. I’m not disputing the science.

What we are focused on is the most effective way for Australia to meet its international obligations, recognising that we are, as a planet, seeing climate change and we to be part of the global solution which we are.

We will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure there is a smooth transition across the economy. But in the most cost-effective way.

As the PM has underlined, it’s all about doing so in a responsible way that ensures our economy and our environment continue to get the best possible outcomes.

Updated

Scott Morrison is in Merimbula, touring the bushfire devastation.

The bushfires are also causing chaos between Western Australia and South Australia.

As the ABC Goldfields reports:

The historic mining town of Norseman has been cut off for extended periods over the past fortnight, with about 270,000 hectares destroyed by seven separate fire fronts in the WA Goldfields region.

The Caiguna Roadhouse, 400km east of Norseman along the Eyre Highway, has become the temporary home for about 250 truck drivers and holidaymakers stranded by the out-of-control bushfires.

Updated

Gentleman says there would need to be active fires in the ACT for a state of emergency to be declared. There's no fires in the ACT at the moment. #ausfires

— Sally Whyte (@sallywhyte) January 2, 2020

#Canberra pic.twitter.com/FEEOntVs8o

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) January 2, 2020

An ADF liaison officer has been sent to the ACT in case things change suddenly.

There is an ADF liaison officer in every fire command centre in NSW and Victoria.

The state of alert for the ACT is because of the severe weather conditions which are going to hit the wider Canberra area.

We’ve decided to take this action, a state of alert, in the ACT as a formal precaution to ensure that we can alert Canberrans about the risk that’s occurring for the ACT into this near future. We see Saturday as a severe fire rating day.

Winds will change.

It will be incredibly hot on the day. And we don’t see any rain before Saturday evening to ease conditions across the ACT.

So it’s an important statement to make to urge Canberrans to be prepared, to ensure that you download your bushfire plan from the ESA website, talk to your family about whether you might need to evacuate at some point, and take some action in regard to that.

Evacuation plans for #Mallacoota are underway, as #YourADF works with emergency services to prepare transferring people to HMAS Choules tomorrow AM.

Commanding Officer of Choules, CMDR Houlihan, led the ADF team onshore today to provide timely and relevant support. pic.twitter.com/ecphjfLg9f

— Linda Reynolds (@lindareynoldswa) January 2, 2020

The ACT government is not declaring a state of emergency just yet – but it is declaring a state of alert, which is the step beforehand.

That’s because of the conditions the ACT will be facing on Saturday. So far the fires have not hit the ACT directly, but it is butting against the ACT and it wouldn’t take much for that to change.

Updated

The NSW state of emergency starts tomorrow and will last for a week.

The main power that will come into play is the power authorities have to forcibly evacuate people.

So what can we take from that?

Tomorrow is not going to be great, but Saturday is going to be even worse - potentially even worse than what we saw on New Year’s Eve.

The Shoalhaven is an area of particular concern.

But looking at the map, there is fire stretching from the Victorian border to just outside Sydney. That is a lot of area to cover and a lot of challenges for fire authorities as conditions get even worse.

The Victorian fires are also worrying the NSW RFS.

There are a number of fires burning south of the border. Obviously the one fire that we had over near Jingellic, east of Albury there, that fire has burnt extensively down in a south-easterly direction towards Victoria, that’s posing a huge threat to the high country areas.

We’re working closely with our Victorian colleagues for the fire behaviour and movement as to the south-east corner of our state and the north-east corner of Victoria. We’re working very closely together with that.

Updated

On how the evacuations are going today, Gladys Berejiklian says things are going as well as can be expected:

I want to reiterate that patience, whether it’s local or tourists wanting to get back home, the patience and neighbourly support has been amazing.

I want to thank everybody for that. I’m relieved to note the power shortages experienced on New Year’s Day are still there but not as severe as they were. Many people have had power restored.

That means people can take safe refuge with friends and relatives and people can access those basic supplies they weren’t able to do so a few days earlier.

I also saw, having travelled on and in the vicinity of local roads, the danger that trees, that burnt-out trees are posing, burnt-out telegraph poles are opposing.

I saw for myself things that were literally swaying and ready to come down, we need to make sure that nobody is injured, or worse, because of things coming down when they’re using roads.

That’s why it’s important for us to be cautious and to be safe. We know that can result in frustration for people but I’d much rather have people frustrated and get home safely than not feel frustrate and have themselves or a loved one experience a serious injury or worse.

That’s why we need to be cautious at these times.

I want to thank in particular police, fire rescue personnel who have made sure that where people can have access to main roads, that they can let them through even monitoring them closely, with only letting a few cars through at a time.

We encourage people to exercise caution. We do appreciate that for some, it is difficult to access supplies but it’s much easier than what it was yesterday and the day before.

Updated

Where are fire authorties worried about? Pretty much everywhere at this point.

Shane Fitzsimmons:

We are focusing very much on south-eastern quadrant of NSW but not at the exclusion of all these other fires we have across the state.

We still have 113 fires burning across NSW.

We have a large fire up near the Kurrajong Heights area.

Crews have been working on that all day and are gaining the upper hand.

That containment will be tenuous as they head into the weekend.

They’ll continue strengthening that containment.

The last thing we want is an outbreak of that fire complex and heading into communities like the Blue Mountains or into the Kurrajong region and into north-western Sydney, for example.

We have the fire around the Green Wattle Creek fire where it’s burning effectively north of Mittagong and burning up to Wombeyancaves.

There is a fire burning on the western side of Warragamba dam there. They will continue to fight that fire while favourable weather conditions present. But fighting that fire will be tenuous at best.

... The greater Sydney environment, Illawarra, Shoalhaven and even potential into the Greater Hunter, we have a very large area that will see potentially high level fire danger ratings set in across NSW.

Updated

The RFS commissioner continues:

So we’re going to have a very long, difficult day of hot, dry winds, dominating out of the north, north-west before a southerly change emits.

Pretty volatile stretch along the coastal stretch like we saw on New Year’s Eve with the wind strengths, gusting particularly 70, 80km/h or more in some parts.

It is going to be a very dangerous day. It’s going to be a very difficult day.

Which is why we’re ensuring the highest available orders and arrangements, instruments, for the state of New South Wales are in effect.

Another precautionary measure we’re taking for the next few days is to ensure there are state wide total fire bans in place for tomorrow and Saturday.

That will be reviewed post Saturday depending on how fire reacts and how fire spreads and what sort of damage is occasioned as a result of the fire behaviour on Saturday.

Saturday sounds like absolute hell for everyone in the fire zone.

Shane Fitzsimmons:

We’re expecting temperatures on Saturday into the low- to mid-40s.

Very hot, dry air coming out of the centre of Australia which means humidity will be particularly low.

The winds will start very much strengthening up from the north, north-west and swinging around more to the west throughout the day and those wind strengths particularly across the ranges will be coming in at 40, 50, 60km/h and gusting at 70km/h.

That will result in severe danger ratings, but coming up towards the central ranges some widespread extreme fire danger which is present some real challenges for fire behaviour and fire spread across that landscape.

There will be a southerly change moving through the state on Saturday but at this stage it’s not forecast to start moving through the state of New South Wales, the south-east corner of the state down around Eden, for example, it’s not expected to start moving into that area until about 3:00pm in the afternoon, and then it’ll be a fairly slow movement up the coast and probably not hit an area like Sydney until about midnight.

Fire authorities are preparing for the worst case scenario on Saturday, after what happened on Tuesday.

Last New Year’s Eve, what we identified and the Premier talked about, it was very much that we saw extraordinary fire behaviour with fires, five of them burning at the emergency warning alert level, from about 8:00am or earlier in the morning.

Those fires exceeded all the manual predictions and all the computer-based predictions for what was to be the expected fire spread.

As we do routinely, we’ve re-run a number of those models and forecasts and those fires have spread at the absolute worst-case scenario which typically is not what happens when it plays out on the ground.

We are applying that technology given the conditions on Saturday are likely to be experienced will be worse than New Year’s Eve and a lot of those areas in the south-east quad rant of the state have the potential to be impacted and impacted very heavily with the conditions forecast for Saturday.

Shane Fitzsimmons talks about Friday:

Tomorrow we’ll be pushing out more information out tomorrow and today into Shoalhaven, as the fire spreads into the east into more populated areas.

Most importantly, given the latest forecasts for the weather conditions on Saturday, the risk areas will extend not just for the far south coast and the Shoalhaven but right across the west, across the high country and out to the southern slopes, the areas west of the high country into places like Tumbarumba and Batlow.

There’ll be specific advice out about the community of Batlow and surrounds.

Effectively from there, down to Thredbo, Perisher, Jindabyne, there’ll be real challenges and very real risks associated with what’s being forecast and predicted for fire spread under the sorts of weather conditions we’re expecting as we head into Saturday.

NSW RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, who is continuing to show just absolute outstanding leadership, says the state of emergency is necessary.

Unfortunately we’ve seen this afternoon fire activity flare up in the Shoalhaven area which has impacted the Princes Highway again, near the Sussex Inlet Road and Bendalong Road area.

There is a bit of fire activity there at the moment which we’re hoping to have wrapped up in the next few hours to again provide clear passage to that part of the road.

We’re all appreciative collectively of the decisions and patience taken by people down the south coast.

We are hoping to clear the disruption to the Princes Highway over the coming hours.

So please be patient.

And working with police, particularly, and the RMS when it is safe to do so.

It is heavily clogged with smoke and fire is burning on the edge of the road and there is backburning operations going on right on the edge of the road as we speak.

This is not about waiting to clear the road and make it safe from trees and power poles.

This is about active fire that is coming back in on the Princes Highway.

As soon as we have that under control, it is a stretch of only about 6km or 7km but it is just a risk that’s too great to allow cars to be traversing that part of the road.

The warning, the alert and the messaging to go out and ask people not to be in these at-risk areas is to extend beyond the far south coast.

At the moment we’re talking from Batemans Bay down to the Victorian border.

Updated

State of emergency declared in NSW from tomorrow.

Gladys Berejiklian is holding a press conference – authorities will have the power to forcibly evacuate people, given the conditions which are predicted for Saturday.

The reason the why we’re doing it tomorrow ahead of Saturday is to make sure that Commissioner Fitzsimmons and all our personnel, all our agencies know that from tomorrow they will be subject to forced evacuations, road closures, road openings and anything else we need to do as a state to keep our residents and to keep property safe.

We don’t take these decisions lightly but we also want to make sure we’re taking every single precaution to be prepared for what could be a horrible day on Saturday.

We know temperatures will be in the mid-40s in parts of the state. We also know that there are a lot of tourists on the move and allowing us to declare the state of emergency from tomorrow morning will allow us to ensure that we can provide safe access to roads when we need to, we can also provide safe access provide safe access to roads when we need to, we can also provide safe access to and from destinations as we have been encouraging people to move back home, to travel safely ahead of what will been very difficult circumstances on Saturday.

Again, we don’t take these decisions lightly.

Updated

Cool beans.

The office of NSW Minister for Emergency Services, David Elliott, says he hasn't returned from his European holiday yet, but that "he will be back in the country in time for the worsening conditions forecast for Saturday."

— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) January 2, 2020

Quick update on the Woolworths stores in the south coast.

Narooma and Bermagui stores are closed, but all others are still open. Eftpos is down in the Batemans Bay store, so you will need cash for that.

Stock is said to be good, although the highway closure between Ulladulla and Nowra could impact some stores, as trucks are unable to replenish supplies, but that is being closely monitored. Woolworths is also working with the Salvation Army to supply the evacuations centres – two trucks are on their way to the region just for that.

From a spokesperson:

We understand it’s an anxious time and thank customers for their patience as we manage the increased demand and the road closures.

We’d also like to thank our team for their continued support in keeping stores operating and for their ongoing help in supporting their local community.

We’re also working closely with our partner the Salvation Army, with two truckloads of essential supplies currently being loaded to head to the evacuation centres they are managing in the regions.

Updated

It is small fry given what else is going on, but the air quality in Canberra continues to be hazardous. Masks and air purifiers are sold out, with retailers unable to tell people when new stock will come in.

The #NSWRFS farewelled one of our own today, Geoffrey Keaton, one of two firefighters who lost their lives fighting fires on 19 December 2019. @RFSCommissioner Fitzsimmons honored Geoffrey today by posthumously awarding him Commissioner’s Commendations for Bravery and Service. pic.twitter.com/VFeZMxNuJq

— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 2, 2020

Travellers have been urged to avoid the Eyre Highway, the main road from the east coast to Western Australia, which has been closed due to bushfires since Christmas and is not expected to open until next week.

All four roads into the WA town of Norseman have been cut off by bushfire since Christmas Day, and the fire danger rating for the region on Thursday is catastrophic.

But Dundas shire president Laurene Bonza stressed that they were not as badly affected as communities in the eastern states.

“The whole country is on fire,” she said. “It’s a disaster of epic proportions.”

Bonza urged people not to attempt to travel on the Eyre Highway, reminding visitors that the names on the map along the Eyre Highway are just roadhouses with limited supplies, not towns that can accommodate a large number of visitors.

Maureen O’Halloran is the manager of the Caiguna Roadhouse, which is at the eastern edge of the Eyre Highway roadblock.

She told 6PR that 120 people were booked at the roadhouse and sheltering out back, and another 60-70 trucks and cars were parked on the road verge out the front.They are running out of essential supplies.

“We ran out of toilet paper so that’s why they had to come in yesterday, especially for hygienic purposes,” O’Halloran told Perth radio station 6PR on Thursday.

“It is draining our basic supplies because we wouldn’t have this many people using our water. We don’t have rain here so we actually make our water here, so that desalination plant is really really getting smashed at the moment.”

Updated

This is just so heartbreakingly tragic – as is all the loss.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons presents RFS volunteer Geoffrey Keaton's son with a posthumous Commendation for Bravery and Service at his funeral in Buxton, NSW. Just heartbreaking. pic.twitter.com/qWVU5kUVCa

— Thomas O'Brien (@TJ__OBrien) January 2, 2020

Updated

Massive thanks to Luke for stepping back in there for a bit, you have Amy Remeikis again

One of the many buildings destroyed in the New Year's Eve fire, the Batemans Bay Betta Home Living store. https://t.co/MXw2kdX7ZX #NSWfires #BatemansBay #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/AaXjsaekqD

— 7NEWS Sydney (@7NewsSydney) January 2, 2020

The #NSWRFS farewelled one of our own today, Geoffrey Keaton, one of two firefighters who lost their lives fighting fires on 19 December 2019. @RFSCommissioner Fitzsimmons honored Geoffrey today by posthumously awarding him Commissioner’s Commendations for Bravery and Service. pic.twitter.com/VFeZMxNuJq

— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 2, 2020

Brendan, a Mallacoota resident, has been tirelessly tweeting out info from the isolated town the last few days.

Trapped residents and visitors have just had a community briefing, after the arrival of defence force personnel this morning. The response is being coordinated by police, supplemented by the CFA and other services.

Brendan said there were thousands of people crammed in the community hall, with speakers set up outside for those who couldn’t get in.

These are his notes:

  • CFA providing an update on the fire situation. Same info as available on VicEmergency app. Some concern about hot and windy weather changes in the next several days.
  • Mallacoota-Genoa road still blocked with trees. Very dangerous to start clearing now. Will take some time to open.
  • ADF people and aircraft are here. 2 x CFA strike teams still here. Third coming in by water tomorrow.
  • Confirms no active fire fronts nearby but spot fires are still happening.
  • Police back on now. Say road to the tip is clear. Waste collection is a priority. Still working on solving the petrol shortage.
  • Police sergeant reading the emergency information sent to people’s phones. Only Telstra phones are working so many missed it.
  • Emphasising that this is *not* a compulsory evacuation, but optional. Looks like evac by boat will be available for anyone if they want it.
  • Personal belongings on the evac would be limited to carry-on size. Police remaining in town to secure remaining houses and vehicles.
  • Giggles in the hall as the ADF say boarding would have to be by rope ladder hanging over the side of the ship (seriously) followed by angry shushing.
  • Unclear what will happen to people offloaded at the evac destination.
  • Community offering private boats to help load people. ADF day they have it under control. Can load very quickly themselves. Asked private boats to stay out of the way.
  • Evac destination stated to be Western Port but may change.
  • ADF and police are focusing on getting people registered to evac so they can scope the effort. Nothing else to report at this time.
  • Briefing opened by local police senior sergeant but interrupted because speakers outside aren’t working.
  • Evac voyage estimated to be 20hrs travel time.

#Mallacoota hall filling up before a community briefing. SES, CFA, Navy in attendance. pic.twitter.com/l5hp0lfiid

— Brendan (@brendanh_au) January 2, 2020

Updated

Depending on conditions some people at #Mallacoota may be airlifted out tonight but sea evacuations will take place from 7am tomorrow on HMAS Choules. Still no indication where they will dock after leaving. #VictoriaFires #VicBushfires #bushfiresAustralia

— Caroline Schelle (@carolineschelle) January 2, 2020

"I've got nothing but thanks for Scott Morrison"
"I would not be in anyway critical of the PM, everything I've asked for I got"
Premier Daniel Andrews on Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the #bushfiresVIC #gippslandfires #bushfirecrisis #springst #auspol

— Kaitlyn Offer (@KaitlynOffer) January 2, 2020

What we know so far

  • The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, says 17 people are now unaccounted for across the state as more than 50 fires continue to burn. One person is confirmed dead in Victoria.
  • In NSW, the RFS confirms the number of homes lost since New Year’s Eve now stands at 382. Overall, nearly 1,300 homes have been lost.
  • Authorities in NSW order holidaymakers to evacuate the south coast area. That prompts long lines at local supermarkets and lengthy delays for those looking to refuel their cars, while many communities are still without power.
  • The Kosciuszko national park has been evacuated, as have other nearby smaller communities such as Tumbarumba.
  • Between 3,000 and 4,000 people remain trapped in the town of Mallacoota, on Victoria’s eastern tip. Locals and tourists say food and water is running low, and police boats have been ferrying supplies into the town. HMAS Choules, and another smaller naval boat, have arrived off the coast of Mallacoota. About 500 people will be evacuated by sea tomorrow morning.
  • Late last night, police confirmed a woman feared missing at Conjola Park had been found safe. In total, nine people have died in bushfires across NSW and Victoria.

Updated

What is happening in Australia today will become increasingly common around the world if we do not aggressively combat climate change and transform our energy system away from fossil fuels. The future of the planet is at stake. We must act. https://t.co/JvspMDtqAD

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 2, 2020

There is still significant smoke haze in Canberra, however the Memorial remains open today. Poor air quality means today’s Last Post Ceremony will be held in Anzac Hall. Please keep an eye on our website and social media for visitor information.
Pic: 9am this morning pic.twitter.com/bowAno3UUP

— Aust War Memorial (@AWMemorial) January 2, 2020

Just to recap a few important points that might have been lost given this latest media briefing in Victoria and Scott Morrison’s press conference in Sydney.

  • My colleague Ben Smee pointed out earlier that police are turning around traffic at Milton, north of Ulladulla in NSW. This effectively cuts the Princes Highway and the key northbound route from the south coast to Sydney, Ben says.
  • We’ve also learned the entire Kosciuszko national park has been evacuated.
  • And as we just heard, HMAS Choules should leave Mallacoota with evacuees tomorrow morning.

Updated

In the past 24 hours, there have been another 11 new fires, mostly in the Upper Murray area, due to lightning strikes.

Updated

The isolated communities that are being discussed are in the Ovens Valley and Buckland Valley, we’re told.

“There are some communities and small towns in this area that have one road in and one road out.

“It’s very easy to become an isolated community and particularly with the fire in the landscape that we have now, not only do we not want you to be isolated but we don’t want more Victorians to face some of the conditions that people have faced over these last few days in communities.”

On the question of those in other isolated communities, authorities say they are working as hard as possible to get people out before Saturday’s predicted extreme fire danger.

“The things that are stopping it are things like the conditions and the fire and the landscape,” an official says. “As soon as it is humanly possible, we will get those things to those people. I want to assure the community that we are doing everything we can to support you and we will continue to support you.”

However, it sounds like there is no guarantee they’ll be able to do this.

We’re told that there are still between 3,000-4,000 people at Mallacoota.

A reporter asks what the message is to those who will remain in Mallacoota after tomorrow morning. She notes many people will have to stay there.

“We won’t be able to get everyone out in one go but we are working as hard as we can with our colleagues from the defence force to extricate those that can be extricated,” the police official says.

“We are working very hard to open the roads as soon as we possibly can because if we can extricate people via road that is a great option for us. That takes time, given the huge area that we are talking about that is either burning or burnt.”

The Victoria police official is asked about the confirmed 17 missing people.

“I am not in a position to say where those people are missing from because it is a wide range of locations across Gippsland,” he says.

“I can confirm that, at this stage, we have 17 unaccounted persons. We have one confirmed deceased. That is a terrible tragedy in itself. We are working as hard as we can to focus our efforts on locating those persons unaccounted for. At the moment we ask the community to consider very carefully that we have going fires, very, very hot fires going in these areas.”

ADF brigadier Doug Laidlaw is the commander of the emergency services operations in Victoria.

He says two navy vessels have now arrived off the coast of Mallacoota. They are holding a series of community meetings to work through the evacuation plans. That will include working out who wishes to be relocated and how to prioritise them.

It’s likely the HMAS Choules will say to Westernport tomorrow morning.

A Victoria police official talks about the evacuation efforts in Mallacoota. He says that the focus will be on evacuating people children and the sick and vulnerable.

“We are working very hard across agencies to try to restore some form of communications, we are dropping satellite phones, we are able to vulnerable and isolated communities, we will continue to build efforts around that to reestablish and prioritise those vulnerable communities to start with,” he says.

Updated

Authorities in Victoria are currently holding a press conference at the State Control Centre.

A Victorian emergency services official is addressing the media. She says that in the Alpine and East Gippsland areas authorities want people to get out of the area. There is only a small window of opportunity.

“We want them to leave now,” she says. “We have, in the East Gippsland area, a number of isolated communities. In the alpine area where we have tourists and visitors and people residing, we don’t want those people to become isolated like some of the communities that we have down and East Gippsland.

“Again, I ask, please leave now, while we have this opportunity, the window that we have, and move to areas where it is much safer.”

This is Luke Henriques-Gomes again taking over from Amy Remeikis. Thanks for all your great work, Amy.

Scott Morrison press conference

OK, let’s quickly summarise some of the main points of that press conference – Morrison’s first since 29 December.

  • The National Security Committee of cabinet will meet on Monday

Morrison:

We are considering every option because we know the fire season still has a long time to run and particularly now as we are calling in more ADF assets to deal with this, what we are constantly doing, as we have been doing for months, is looking at what the contingencies are going forward.

Those contingencies are being worked on and the National Security Committee of cabinet will meet on Monday to consider those issues as well as the longer term response and some issues we have identified to consider amongst premiers after the fires.



  • Emissions reduction is now being linked to protecting our environment.

Morrison:

Let me be clear to the Australian people, our emissions reductions policies, will both protect our environment and seek to reduce the risk and hazard we are seeing today, at the same time, it will seek to make sure the viability of people’s jobs and livelihoods, all around the country.

  • But we are not actually changing any of our policies.

Morrison:

Our climate policy settings are to meet and beat the emissions reduction targets, emissions reduction under our government is 50 million tons more than the previous government and we want to see them continue for this country and continue to better the achievements we have already made, with measures that achieve that. That is why our policies are being improved, the minister for energy and emissions reduction has already outlined that, he has flagged additional measures, where they can be put in place.

... What we will do is make sure our policies remain sensible, that they don’t move towards either extreme, and stay focused on what Australians need for a vibrant and viable economy, as well as a vibrant and sustainable environment. Getting the balance right is what Australia has always been able to achieve.

  • Land-clearing policy is still something the government is very interested in at a national level (it announced an inquiry into land clearing, a state responsibility, late last year before parliament broke).

Morrison:

Other issues of how you manage hazard reduction are important, because as you say, the impact, more broadly of climate change on these issues has a pronounced effect on the length of the fire season.

That, equally then has a need to address issues around hazard reduction for national parks, dealing with land clearing laws, zoning laws and planning walls around people’s properties and where they can be built in countries like Australia, up and down the coast.

That being the case with the climatic effects of what we are seeing, there are many restrictions around those effects that have to be reviewed on the basis of the broader climatic effect we are seeing in this country.

  • It is still not time to panic, because this is a natural disaster and we have seen those before.

Morrison:

In the midst of the disaster, I understand the anxiety and I understand the fear that is there for many and I understand the frustration but this is a natural disaster.

Natural disasters are best dealt with through the methodical, well coordinated response that we are seeing today.

  • There are more resources which can be deployed, but the NSW government has not asked for more ADF assistance in evacuations, because roads are still open.

Morrison:

What we won’t allow to happen is for governments to be tripping over each other in order to somehow outbid each other in the response. What is needed is the coordinated response that these agencies planned for in circumstances like this.

  • Keep calm and stay patient

Morrison:

I would continue to ask people to be patient. I know you can have kids in the car and there is anxiety and there is stress and the traffic is not moving quickly but the best thing to do – the best thing that helps those out there volunteering, out there trying to restore some order to these situations, is for everyone to be patient. That help will arrive.

Updated

Scott Morrison gets quite testy with this question:

Question: Can you tell Australians about what your government is doing to mitigate the plan for the long-term economic and environmental impact of climate change over the generations as our children grow up?

Morrison:

Reduce our emissions because that is what a responsible country does. Our climate policy settings are to meet and beat the emissions reduction targets, emissions reduction under our government is 50 million tons more than the previous government and we want to see them continue for this country and continue to better the achievements we have already made, with measures that achieve that.

That is why our policies are being improved, the minister for energy and emissions reduction has already outlined that, he has flagged additional measures, where they can be put in place.

Let me be clear to the Australian people, our emissions reductions policies will both protect our environment and seek to reduce the risk and hazard we are seeing today, at the same time, it will seek to make sure the viability of people’s jobs and livelihoods, all around the country.

What we will do is make sure our policies remain sensible, that they don’t move towards either extreme and stay focused on what Australians need for a vibrant and viable economy, as well as a vibrant and sustainable environment.

Getting the balance right is what Australia has always been able to achieve.

Right now the focus as I said at the outset is to fight these fires, get people to safety.

That is what we are focused on, that is what state agencies are focused on, that is what the commonwealth is doing through defence forces and other agencies to lend everything that can be done to get that operational response in place, to get help to where it is needed, get people to places of safety and sustain the firefighting effort.

And with that, he ends the press conference and leaves the room.

Updated

Scott Morrison finishes that answer with:

The season has been quite extraordinary in terms of the drought that has proceded it. Lets hope, in the future, we will hope as we go through this year, we will see that drought end.

That will, hopefully make sure we have a different situation as we confront next year’s fire season.

Other issues of how you manage hazard reduction are important, because as you say, the impact, more broadly of climate change on these issues has a pronounced effect on the length of the fire season.

That, equally then has a need to address issues around hazard reduction for national parks, dealing with land clearing laws, zoning laws and planning walls around people’s properties and where they can be built in countries like Australia, up and down the coast.

That being the case with the climatic effects of what we are seeing, there are many restrictions around those effects that have to be reviewed on the basis on the broader climatic effect we are seeing in this country.

He continues:

Part of the review process will need to look at those issues at length.

That is why the payments which I initiated not that many days ago was recognise the longer time of service that we saw volunteer firefighters have to engage in and states in New South Wales and Queensland have now triggered those payments.

They haven’t been triggered in the other states at this point but that is another factor which is assisting the commissioner in New South Wales in terms of how he is deploying and calling up his resources.

There is also the issues of fuel loads which is very clear.

That has been a constant source of feedback by those on the ground. Issues in national parks and issues of hazard reduction and how that has worked over a period of time, that needs to be looked at undoubtedly.

The suggestion that there is a single policy, whether it be climate or otherwise, can provide a complete insurance policy on fires in Australia, well I don’t think any Australian has ever understood that was the case in this country.

Updated

On whether or not Scott Morrison is preparing for this to be Australia’s new normal:

One of the issues we will have to deal with in the review is the many contributing factors to this particular fire season and we can’t go beyond the drought.

As David has responsibilities in that area also, I mean one of the most striking things during this fire season was when I flew over the range and saw the two [crises] our nation has face come together on the other side of the Great Dividing Range with the drought and bushfires.

The drought has created a tinder box around the country and that has, through various forms of ignition, has seen these fires run for long periods of time, particularly when there is no dousing rain that has normally followed.

The longer-term impacts of what this means for fire seasons was what was looked at going into this season.

There were many concerns that this type of fire season would have occurred last year.

I remember those briefings very vividly and thankfully we were spared that last year but it has certainly hit us this year and that is the planning that was put in place for last year was going in place for this year.

An event of this scale, you may never know specifically where it may run over the course of the country. You know the various factors that are combining together.

Updated

The town of Batlow is evacuated

Batlow – the former apple capital – is also being evacuated.

Fire authorities called a town meeting yesterday to tell residents there is nothing they can do to stop the blazes coming and everyone should get out.

The town has suffered immensely since imported varieties of apples started flooding the Australian market. There are those within the town who believe the fires, if they come through, could be the end of the town.

Updated

Evacuation notice issued for Kosciuszko national park

If you are in that area, get out.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service has issued an evacuation notice for Kosciuszko National Park including resorts and all places located within Kosciuszko National Park. For more info visit https://t.co/A8VgIeRT1n

— Fire and Rescue NSW (@FRNSW) January 2, 2020

Updated

Can more be done?

Scott Morrison:

We are considering every option because we know the fire season still has a long time to run and particularly now as we are calling in more ADF assets to deal with this, what we are constantly doing, as we have been doing for months, is looking at what the contingencies are going forward.

Those contingencies are being worked on and the national security committee of cabinet will meet on Monday to consider those issues as well as the longer-term response and some issues we have identified to consider amongst premiers after the fires.

I have to stress this, what the states are saying to us is “Let us deal with the fires now, let us focus on that, give us every support you can to help us with that” and the Victorian premier Dan Andrews has complimented the role between the commonwealth and the Victorian government in what is happening with the evacuation as we speak.

That is the spirit in which we need to continue to engage this right now, right here. The longer-term issues are always being addressed.

They are addressed after every single fire.

One of the reasons – more homes would have been lost and more lives would have been lost and it is a tragedy how many have already been lost in this season, had it not been for the coordination and planning that our agencies have learned and put in place because of their response to previous natural disasters.

Updated

What other assets are coming?

Scott Morrison:

At this stage it is still in a planning phase. We have a number of naval assets in New South Wales that have been assessed for how they can be tasked and to put them in a state of readiness.

They haven’t been called upon by the States.

The Naval assets that in particular Victoria’s requested are in place. We are also tasking spartans and C130s to assist with evacuations in Victoria but the weather conditions are making that difficult.

Some of the other aviation efforts we have there are being used for Medivac purposes in getting those who are particularly in need of support.

There is work being done over the last week, in particular, to look at all the medical response capabilities, particularly in New South Wales and in Victoria and the assessment there is very positive.

Those services are not being overstretched at this point in time, in terms of the response they need to provide and that is a welcome piece of news.

This is what happens when you work through managing and coordinating the response to these disasters.

You are dealing with payments, medical supplies, aviation assets and what is further needed there, whether other assets need to be leased or brought to bear but we have over 140 aerial firefighting assets in Australia as part of the coordinated group we put together and put an additional $11 million to more recently as the fire season escalated.

We move on to climate change:

Question: You talked about anxiety and fear and terror in the community and you talked about operational issues today. What about the long-term threat? All the experts say this event is turbocharged by climate change and a lot of people would say your government is not doing enough about climate change. What about the long-term threat and what is your government doing to allay those fears and anxiety”

Scott Morrison:

We’ve always acknowledged the link between the broader issues of global climate change and what that means for the world’s weather and the dryness of conditions in many places.

I am sure you would also agree that no response by any one government anywhere in the world can be linked to any one fire event.

I don’t think you’re suggesting that here in NSW, Victoria or anywhere else.

Governments plans on climate change are very clear and the achievements we are making we have set out well.

2020 is the year we beat the Kyoto 2020 commitment.

We don’t just beat it by a bit, we beat it by a lot.

We are one of the few countries that can say that.

We have the policies and plans to ensure we will meet and beat our 2030 commitments and we will continue to manage those issues responsibly.

Right now, as I said, my focus right now is to deal with the anxiety in the community is the support and supplies and getting people to safety and ensuring that our firefighters have every support they need and I said I am in constant contact with the premiers in terms of what, if any, other additional assistance they need to get the job done on the ground.

When I speak to the firefighters, when I speak to those involved in the operational effort, that is what they want from us, they want support for what they need to do and that is what we are giving them.

Updated

Question: Do you understand the frustration of people when you keep saying this is a state issue, this is the state agencies in control of this? We have fires raging all around the country and you’re the prime minister.

Scott Morrison:

That is why the defence forces are out there and our agencies are providing for the payments.

Our agencies are coordinating responses between commonwealth resources and state resources.

That is what the commonwealth does in these situations and that is what the commonwealth will continue to do and what we won’t allow to happen is for governments to be tripping over each other in order to somehow outbid each other in the response.

What is needed is the coordinated response that these agencies planned for in circumstances like this.

I understand the frustration, I understand the anxiety. I understand the fear also, but what I also understand is the need to allow the professionals and the experts who plan and then operationalise these responses to do their job and to give them every support and every resource, from the prime minister to the premier, to the mayor.

Updated

Asked about residents in Lake Conjola who are without food, water or in a lot of cases, homes, Scott Morrison says:

I can understand their frustration and some of these parts of the country are difficult for state authorities and agencies to get the support into.

This is a fire front that was running pretty much all the way up the NSW border, all the way up to the upper reaches of the south coast and Lake Conjola sits in the middle of that.

I know the area very well.

There are many areas that are in that situation right now.

That is why it is important to allow the response to just roll out and do it and as effectively and quickly and safely as possible.

Updated

Scott Morrison continues on the “don’t panic” answer:

We need to do that for as long as it takes and it will cost whatever it costs to ensure that we can continue to deploy this very well-coordinated response.

In the midst of the disaster, I understand the anxiety and I understand the fear that is there for many and I understand the frustration but this is a natural disaster.

Natural disasters are best dealt with through the methodical, well-coordinated response that we are seeing today.

If it were not for their response over these many months – and you’re right, we have seen far too many lost and as the premier in Victoria has indicated, still many understanding accounted for in the small communities in East Gippsland and it will be some time before we know where they are and if they are well or indeed they have been lost.

Wait to ensure we do that, whether it is an evacuation or the medevacs that are occurring, is to continue to do it in the responsible and well-coordinated way we are doing.

Had we not done that, many more would have been lost and many more properties.

Updated

Scott Morrison is asked when is the time to actually be worried, or start panicking, given the extent of this natural disaster:

There is no doubt natural disasters are termed that way because that is what they are. They are natural disasters.

They wreak this sort of havoc when they affect our country as they have for a very long time.

The scale and length of this bushfire season is something I have referred to now on many occasions.

The first fire incident that I attended with Jenny was back in Conungra back in September.

The fires have raged in Queensland, South Australia, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and there were concerns in Western Australia.

That is all true.

The best way to respond is the way that Australians have always responded to these events and that is to put our confidence in those who are fighting these fires and who are experienced and know what they are doing, the agencies that prepare 24/7, seven days a week, that is what their job is.

Emergency management Australia at a commonwealth level, its task is to ensure that in times like this, there is a fully coordinated response between the commonwealth and the states and even at the local level and the payments are appropriate and they are trigger and actioned and that is what is occurring.

What we are saying is we cannot control the natural disaster but what we can do is control our response, what we can do is support those who are out there putting themselves at risk by showing the patience and the calm that is necessary, that enables them to do their job.

Updated

Police are now turning around northbound traffic at Milton – effectively cutting the Princes Highway and the northbound route from the south coast to Sydney.

Official advice from NSW Live Traffic is for people to delay their journey.

Updated

David Littleproud pleads with people to be patient but also listen to emergency service personnel when they tell you to get out.

We have already had too many fatalities in the fires and, sadly, we have had three brave Australians who were serving their community and their country who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Out of respect to them, it is your responsibility to listen to those emergency service personnel, to do what they tell you but to be prepared and to act now.

This is not “she will be right” sort of moment.

This is a serious situation as we get into the weekend. It is imperative that you look after yourselves.

There is a responsibility to look after yourselves and your families and you owe it to the men and women who are fighting the fires to keep you safe to do exactly what they say.

Updated

Scott Morrison again asks people in the fire zone to be patient:

My simple request is to be patient. To have confidence in the state agencies that are leading the operational response on the ground.

If you are in a position where you can get yourself to safety, please do that and follow the instructions that are available to you.

If you are in a position where you have to hold and wait, then know that there is support that will get to you.

It is already on its way and in those places where it has already been able to be delivered, we thank those who were able to get that support to where it is needed.

The stores will then be built up again, particularly using the assets and support of the ADF.

There is a major evacuation, I have alluded to it and what is happening in Victoria at the moment with the [HMAS] Choules assisting with that.

There has been no request from NSW of a similar ADF support for an evacuation of that nature on the south coast given that the roads are open.

If you are able to get into your vehicle and drive back to Sydney or Canberra, then that is the advice you are receiving to follow that local instruction.

Updated

MALLACOOTA: Thousands of stranded people have packed into this hall to hear the evacuation plan from emergency services. Updates from the meeting to come @7NewsMelbourne pic.twitter.com/48rdmpOPC1

— Cassie Zervos (@cassiezervos) January 2, 2020

Fires to burn for 'many, many months', says Morrison

Scott Morrison tells us what the emergency commissioners have already made clear – the fires will continue to burn for months in many areas, until there is a change in conditions.

From this point on, what the commonwealth will continue to do is to support those operational efforts.

We will also be there to support the recovery efforts and they will start coming into being in the weeks ahead and months ahead indeed and I have already had a number of discussions about the various payments and forms of assistance that go to small businesses that have been impacted and the category C assistance which is already available in so many local government areas around the country, in these affected areas.

That support will be very important and there are other levels of assistance that we can move to as we saw was so effective in response to the north Queensland floods.

Making sure that support flows quickly and effectively is so important to get the recovery effort up and running after these fires.

Unlike a flood, where the water will recede, in a fire like this, it goes on and it will continue to go on as those in the agencies have advised us, until we can get some decent rain that can deal with some of the fires that have been burning for many, many months.

Updated

Scott Morrison appeals directly to those attempting to evacuate and asks them to stay calm and be patient:

I would continue to ask people to be patient. I know you can have kids in the car and there is anxiety and there is stress and the traffic is not moving quickly but the best thing to do – the best thing that helps those out there volunteering, out there trying to restore some order to these situations is for everyone to be patient.

That help will arrive.

There are parts of both Victoria and NSW which have been completely devastated, with a loss of power and communications.

Every absolute effort is in train to ensure that those things can be stood up as soon as possible. In some cases we have been able to get tankers in to restore fuel supplies, that is greatly assisted now.

There are other places which are still too difficult to get the supply into now but we will be able to do that as soon as we possibly can.

Defence has been assisting in providing advice to the communications companies to assist in getting communications restored as soon as possible and the same things are being done when it comes to standing up energy supplies.

In particular, down in Cobargo and places like that, where dairies have been milking and they simply have to pour the milk down the hill because of the lack of power to those areas at this time.

That is the tragedy of what is occurring as a result of these disasters.

But I do want to commend the state agencies and their leaders, both within the fire services and other emergency management agencies that are coordinating this response and leading it both in Victoria and in NSW.

Updated

On the calls for further ADF assistance, Scott Morrison says:

All of these assets, I should stress, whether it is the Black Hawks or any of the other things that are being made available, that is being done to get it in readiness to deploy and then, secondly, it is activated at the request of the state agencies.

What you cannot have in these situations is governments stepping over the top of each other in responding to a natural disaster like this.

It must follow a clear chain of command. It must follow the headquarters model which is in place and which commonwealth authorities are embedded in, both in NSW and in Victoria.

In both NSW and Victoria, there are joint taskforces which have been stood up by defence which are coordinating the defence engagement in each of those responses and they are fully plugged into the headquarters in NSW and in Victoria.

Updated

Scott Morrison on the defence force deployments:

There is also the work that is being done through emergency management Australia. It is so important, particularly as we are going through what can be the very dangerous exercise of evacuations and getting people to safety, as the premier of Victoria Dan Andrews just stated a few moments ago, that this be done in a very coordinated and safe way.

So it is important, as we work through those evacuations, that people continue to remain patient and remain calm and to follow instructions.

For those places where there is still stores and other assistance to be provided, it is on its way. I have just now come off the phone speaking to the CDF, General Houston – Campbell I should say, to ensure that all of that effort is being deployed right around the country, as it is needed.

The other important assistance that is being provided by the commonwealth is the support provided by the defence forces themselves as I have just noted.

We have deployed naval efforts which we moved earlier this week and there are other assets that have been identified and are awaiting tasking.

Updated

Scott Morrison:

The priority today is fighting fires and evacuating, getting people to safety. What is incredibly important is we continue to maintain the focus on these very important tasks.

Those tasks are being well led and run by our state authorities, both in Victoria and in NSW and I am in constant contact with premiers of both of those states.

I am also mindful, though, of the emerging situation in South Australia and even in Tasmania and we will continue to work closely with those states, where the need arises.

At a commonwealth level, our task has been to fully support and provide whatever assistance is necessary through all the various agencies of the commonwealth.

Now, that in order has gone from the provision of disaster payments that have now exceeded some more than $21m in NSW alone and we expect more of that to continue in Victoria as the full devastation of the fires there becomes more evident and the damage assessments and people are able to make claims on those funds.

But that has been an important task for the commonwealth, working with the states, where the assistance has been triggered to get those payments to people as quickly as possible and I want to thank all of those and Services Australia have been working to be able to deliver those payments and support but also the state government agencies who have directly been involved in the administering of those payments.

Updated

Scott Morrison has begun his press conference from the Sydney CPO (the federal government building in NSW).

He has just returned from the funeral of Horsley Park brigade deputy captain Geoff Keaton.

To be there with his partner and his parents and his broader family, it was important to be able to honour his great sacrifice and his tremendous service.

Sadly, we will be attending two more of these services in the not too distant future.

It was also tremendous to be there with the men and women of the Rural Fire Service brigade as they provided their guard of honour for their mate.

From all of the nation to Jess and the family, we extend our deepest sympathies and for those who will be gathering together for similar services in the near future, we extend that to them also.

Updated

Daniel Andrews:

I’m sad to have to report that there are at least 17 people that at this stage we cannot account for.

Their whereabouts is unknown to us, plus there is one person confirmed as deceased.

Whilst Victoria police have not been through the official identification processes, it is clear that the Roberts family have identified Mr Roberts and we send our condolences to their family and the Buchan community to whom he was so well-known and very highly regarded.

That’s at least 17 people whose whereabouts cannot be accounted for, plus one confirmed deceased.

As we get further information we’ll update you, I don’t propose to go through the 17 different location. That doesn’t serve any purpose.

They are from East Gippsland, from a number of smaller communities across East Gippsland.

That number may grow or indeed people may report to authorities or we can get to them either via mobile phone coverage or getting people into those communities.

It may be some of those people are safe but we hold very significant fears for the welfare of anybody who is missing at this time.

Updated

The Princes Highway remains closed in the following locations:

• Between Batemans Bay and Moruya

• Between Narrabarba and Cann River (Victoria)

- From Narrabarba, you can travel west on Imlay Road to the Monaro Highway to head north.

The Snowy Mountains Highway is open between Bega and Adaminaby so anyone on the far south coast is also able to travel to Canberra or Sydney via the Snowy Mountains Highway to Cooma, the Monaro Highway to Canberra and the Hume Highway.

Many other roads remain closed including:

South of Nowra:

• Jerrawangala to Tomerong: Turpentine Road is closed

• Wandandian: Wandean Road is closed between the Princes Highway and Bollerang Road

• Nowra Hill to Charleyong: Braidwood Road/Nerriga Road is closed

Around Braidwood:

• Braidwood to Nelligen: the Kings Highway is closed

• Braidwood to Moruya: Araluen Road is closed

• Braidwood to Cooma: Cooma Road is closed

In and around the Snowy Mountains:

• Tumut to Adaminaby: the Snowy Mountains Highway is closed

• Batlow to Tumbarumba: Batlow Road is closed

• Jindabyne to Khancoban: Alpine Way is closed

A number of smaller local roads are also closed in the south coast and Snowy Mountains areas, and many roads crossing the NSW-Victorian border are also closed, including the Monaro Highway between Rockton and Cann River (Victoria).

Up to the minute information about road closures is available at livetraffic.com.

Updated

The NSW police have more information on road closures and the evacuation of the south coast and Snowy Mountains.

The Transport Management Centre has provided the following information about traffic movement and road closures, which is current as at 11.30am:

  • Motorists on the south coast are able to travel north on the Princes Highway from Batemans Bay.
  • The Princes Highway as also recently reopened between Tilba Tilba and Brogo, as well as between Falls Creek and Milton.
  • A reduced speed limit of 60km/h is in place, and the highway may be closed for short periods to allow emergency vehicles through.
  • Motorists are advised to take extreme care, follow the directions of emergency services and traffic crews, and drive with headlights switched on due to smoke in the area.
  • Motorists should also allow plenty of extra travel time and be patient as northbound traffic on the Princes Highway is very heavy approaching Wandandian and is queued back almost to Termeil.

Updated

NSW authorities have once again shut the highway out of the south coast as conditions become too dangerous.

I have family stuck in Berrara on the NSW south coast. They were escorting 50 cars at a time out of the area but they’ve now closed the roads again and the fires are closing in. Absolutely terrifying 😔 pic.twitter.com/uhCoU8UHMf

— Eleni Paneras (@EleniPaneras) January 2, 2020

17 people missing in Victoria

While Anthony Albanese is speaking, the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed one person has died and 17 people are unaccounted for after the East Gippsland fires. The death, previously reported, was that of Mick Roberts in Buchan.

Updated

But people voted for Scott Morrison and his government’s policies:

What we’re seeing, though, I think, is the need for leadership on these issues.

And, you know, you can’t say – I mean it’s quite right that there have been bushfires in Australia before.

But what we are seeing is greater intensity, the season being longer and, unfortunately, this could be the new norm and the devastation – and when we talk about economic cost, the economic cost of this crisis, this national emergency is enormous.

Not just in terms of, of course, the most important cost is the cost of lives.

But the disruption as well are, the social impact of people losing their homes, the economic impact long-term of having to not just rebuild, but the impact on the south coast economy.

Enter the Blue Mountains, I was up in the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury, this is their high-end season.

You had the Victoria and Albert Hotel at Mount Victoria that normally would have a big Christmas lunch.

They had bookings. I spoke to the proprietor there with [the Labor MP] Susan Templeman.

Everyone had cancelled. They had to go ahead. There are businesses shut.

The long-term impact of the fact that we’ve lost 900,000 hectares of Blue Mountains national park, that will have an impact on bushwalkers, people staying in the mountains.

The economic cost as well as the social costs, the health cost to our health system of people being admitted to hospital because of the nature of the air that we’re breathing, is just extraordinary.

And I think it’s about time that those people who say, “Oh, climate change is nonsense. Acing on climate change will cost us,” actually had an assessment of what the cost of inaction is, because it’s astronomical and we’re seeing it played out right now.

Updated

The government says it will meet its Paris targets, to which Anthony Albanese said:

Except, of course, that they gave up the ghost when they went to Madrid. They gave up the falsity for all to see, because they argued there that we needed to take into account the Kyoto period emissions, which were when Labor was in government – because of renewable energy target – and also, by the way, because of the Queensland, the former Queensland Labor government’s policies on land clearing that made a big difference there as well.

Both policies that the Coalition opposed.

So they can’t oppose the policies and then try and take the credit.

They need to, going forward, have a serious policy of meeting their open targets. So their targets, signed up to by Tony Abbott, they need to do that without accounting tricks.

Would Labor introduce a carbon price?

We’d have a mechanism of some form that would provide that investment service.

Updated

And what else is needed, according to Anthony Albanese?

Well, we also need a renewable energy target. And so the mechanism that drives change through our domestic economy as well as a renewable energy target, the sort of mechanisms that some of them are already in place – the government tried to get rid of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

That’s playing a really important role in providing that financing options and it’s making money, by the way, for the taxpayer at the same time, because it makes sense.

And government needs to abandon the ridiculous talk of a taxpayer-subsidised coal-fired power station.

The market is speaking. The cheapest way of us increasing supply and certainty in the market is through renewables and through storage, which provides that base-load capacity.

Updated

What does Anthony Albanese think needs to change? Does the nation need to consider a carbon price?

Well, it needs a mechanism of some form. Now, the government came up with under Malcolm Turnbull, it went through the party room, the NEG, the national energy guarantee.

What you need is a signal that creates an investment certainty. Now NEG was one.

There’s a range of mechanisms that you can have. But you set something that is a signal to the market so that you get your lowest-cost emissions reductions, and good climate policy is actually good for jobs, it’s good for lowering prices as well as lowering emissions.

Updated

Anthony Albanese is using this interview, which comes ahead of Scott Morrison’s doorstop interview at 1pm, to hit the government over its climate change strategy.

Well, the government has to actually not say that nothing needs to change.

The truth is that they’re right when they say Australia acting alone is not enough, but the problem is not only are we not acting, we’re actually preventing global action through the argument that we put at Madrid that, rather than reducing emissions, we should have accountancy fiddles.

Australia has an interest in being strong advocates for greater global action, not being a handbrake.

We need, of course, to act domestically as well, but we can’t be big players on the international stage.

And here’s the contradiction in the government’s position – they say, “Oh, well, we’re just 1.3% of emissions, therefore we don’t have a responsibility to act. It won’t really make a difference,” is what they’re saying.

But the truth is that if everyone says that, of course, no one will act – that’s the first point. But the second point is we don’t have credibility in those international forums.

Updated

'This is a national emergency,' says Anthony Albanese

The Labor leader starts with this:

Well, this is a national emergency.

And the tragedy of this is it’s precisely the sort of predictions that were made by scientists and, unfortunately, the science is proving itself to be correct, that Australia, as a dry continent, the nature of our climate, means we’re particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

We were told that the bushfire season would be longer and more intense, and that is what we’re seeing, and coming immediately after the drought, it just means that parts of tropical rainforest were burning for the first time just a couple of months ago.

And it’s continued to take place. This is certainly not business as usual.

Updated

Anthony Albanese is in the ABC 24 studios for an interview.

Looks like he is going harder on the link between these fires and climate change.

Updated

A very big thank you to Luke for his work all day.

You have Amy Remeikis with you for the next few hours.

Excuse the language but conditions are shithouse off the coast of Mallacoota. HMAS Choules barely visible as CO Scott Houlihan leads a liaison team to meet with community leaders in town. Hoping to get people on board this arvo. #TYFYS @DeptDefence @CDF_Aust #lovegippsland pic.twitter.com/a5KmoD0rOA

— Darren Chester MP (@DarrenChesterMP) January 2, 2020

Further to that, the local member, Helen Haines, has told the ABC:

“It is a very serious situation up here in the Corryong region and many people have been evacuated from their homes and have been coming to the emergency relief centres, both in Corryong and Tallangatta.

“Those people now have dispersed to other places, but there are some people still in the evacuation centres and people have been coming in with food and supplies and water and anything they can think of that can help people.”

I have been asked to provide an update to what is happening at Corryong in Victoria’s north-east.

The Herald Sun has reported that more than 100 cars left the town last night in a convoy led by fire crews. There are fears the town will come under threat again when conditions deteriorate tomorrow and particularly on Saturday. Those who have left are at a relief centre at Tallangatta.

As far as warnings go, there is a watch and act in place for Biggara, Corryong, Cudgewa, Koetong, Nariel Valley, Tintaldra, Towong, Walwa and surrounding communities.

  • There is a large bushfire within the Alpine national park north of Tom Groggin that is not yet under control.
  • The bushfire is travelling in a south-easterly direction on a large front.
  • There are multiple bushfires threatening communities in this area that started as a result of dry lightning.
  • There is a significant fire activity in both NSW and Victoria, smoke will be visible from these fires.
  • You must continue to remain vigilant as conditions may change.
  • The weather predicted for the approaching weekend could result in significant fire movement.
  • Use this time to review your bushfire survival plan and implement any changes.

Don’t wait, leaving now is the safest option – conditions may change and get worse very quickly. Emergency services may not be able to help you if you decide to stay.

Emergency services are warning residents in fire affected areas in the state’s North East to prepare now, with horror weather conditions are forecast to return tomorrow and Saturday. Crews are door knocking as many properties as possible in the #Corryong region today.

— Ashlee Aldridge (@Ashlee_Aldridge) January 2, 2020

Updated

The Australian defence force has issued a statement today saying it has expanded its contribution to the bushfire effort.

It is a very long press release that outlines everything Defence has done and plans to do during the crisis so I won’t reproduce it for you. What appears to be new since yesterday is:

  • An expansion of the ground transport and logistics tasks already supported to five new locations – Tamworth, Mudgee, Nowra, Maitland and Queanbeyan. This task is expected to run from 6-20 January.
  • The provision of personnel and equipment to supplement state capabilities to clear and reopen roads in fire-affected areas of Victoria, as well as general engineering tasks to remove debris from public areas and clear fire breaks and fire trails. This will begin today with priority for the Gippsland region.
  • Light engineering. Fire trail clearance at Mudgee from 6-10 January.
  • Recovery operations. Provision of personnel and equipment to undertake recovery tasks as identified and assessed by the NSW government based on advice from specialist ADF advisers. These tasks – in Tamworth, Wollondilly, Nowra, Mudgee, Maitland and Wingecarribee – will start from 6 January.

As we’ve already reported, Defence also says HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore has begun “relief operations in Mallacoota this morning, including supporting the relocation of vulnerable and high-priority people to Westernport”.

Updated

This the view from the top of the Tasman Glacier NZ today - whole South island experiencing bushfire clouds. We can actually smell the burning here in Christchurch. Thinking of you guys. 😢#nswbushfire #AustralianFires #AustraliaBurning pic.twitter.com/iCzOGkou4o

— Miss Roho (@MissRoho) January 1, 2020

Kosciuszko national park evacuated

NSW authorities say people in the Kosciuszko national park must evacuate by 10am tomorrow.

Here is the alert and evacuation notice from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Current situation:

  • There are large fires to the west and south of Kosciuszko national park that will move in an easterly direction in coming days.
  • There are multiple other fires within the park which could expand in coming days. NPWS is continuing to gather intelligence about the location, size and predicted progress of these fires.
  • Lightning and ember attacks may result in additional fires.
  • It is unlikely that these fires will be contained in the coming days or weeks.
  • The current weather forecast indicates that Saturday 4 January will be a bad fire weather day. Fires are likely to spread quickly prior to and during this Saturday.
  • This is not a fire season that NSW has seen before. It is hotter and drier than we have previously experienced.

Evacuations:

  • An evacuation order is applied to all of Kosciuszko national park and resorts and all other places located within Kosciuszko national park. All people located in Kosciuszko national park must exit Kosciuszko national park boundaries before the deadline of 10am eastern daylight savings time Friday 3 January 2020. This is an essential measure to protect life.
  • People outside of Kosciuszko national park need to monitor advice from the NSW RFS and other fire and emergency service agencies to remain informed as to whether other areas outside of Kosciuszko national park need to evacuate.
  • Kosciuszko national park is closed for entry. Permanent residents and essential staff may enter but must have evacuated by the deadline of 10am, Friday 3 January 2020.

Updated

This good news came in from NSW police late last night.

Police have confirmed a woman missing after her home was destroyed at Conjola Park yesterday is safe and well.

Fears had been held for the 81-year-old woman after her home in Kurrajong Crescent was destroyed by bushfires that swept through about 2pm yesterday (Tuesday 31 December 2019).

Officers from south coast police district had been unable to confirm the whereabouts of the woman, and initiated inquiries; however, about 5pm today (Wednesday 1 January 2020), the woman’s family told police she’d been rescued from her home as the fire was nearing the home.

Police have now confirmed the woman is safe and well in nearby Manyana.

Updated

Thredbo is being evacuated.

BREAKING: The NPWS has declared a planned evacuation of the Kosciuszko National Park inn Thredbo Resort from now, with evacuation deadline of 10am, Fri 3 Jan. "All resort operations will be closed from the evacuation deadline until further notice." More to come. #nswfires

— Emma Groves (@EmGrovesy) January 2, 2020

The prime minister’s office has told media Scott Morrison will hold a press conference at 1pm in Sydney.

Wodonga Magistrates' Court is closed on Thursday 2 January 2020 due to fire threat. https://t.co/pS7MO0J33w

— Magistrates' Court of Victoria (@MagCourtVic) January 2, 2020

Gridlock all the way through Ulladulla, similar scenes in Milton, Nowra and Batemans Bay. Just met a woman who’s arrived in Ulladulla after leaving Depot Beach - 30km south - at 7am. I’ll have more on @abcnews The World Today @ 12.10pm on Local Radio, 1pm on @RadioNational pic.twitter.com/iIWnTxPTIv

— Gavin Coote (@GavinCoote) January 2, 2020

I’ve been speaking to Kelly, who is down in the isolated town of Mallacoota who was holidaying with family when the fire hit on Tuesday. He was among the 4,000 people who took refuge on the foreshore.

As we have been hearing, supplies are running low in the town as the navy and police boats bring in food and water by sea. Reports are that about 100 homes have been destroyed.

“The town’s food supplies are getting a belting so not sure how long the food is going last,” Kelly said. “The local bakery has closed as of this morning as their generator [is down] so bread is now out of the question.”

His wife, Stacey, is a nurse and has walked down to the medical centre to offer some help. “They could not have been happier to see her as they are so under the pump with patients,” Kelly said.

“My boys done a sweep of the lake and picked up all the rubbish around the edges to help out in any way. We were meant to go home Saturday but that won’t be happening and to be honest we are happy to stay and help out in any way we can.

“One thing I will say is fuck I’m a proud Australian because when the shit hits the fan people stop their lives to help those who are struggling to give them a hand back up.”

Updated

For those looking to get out of the NSW south coast before Saturday, the ABC has this very useful article.

Updated

Kerri Warren, a real estate agent in Mallacoota, says she estimates about 100 homes have been lost in the Victorian coastal town. That does not include other structures like sheds.

Convoys including empty stock trucks heading to communities around Buchan today. There’s been massive ag losses in some areas for farm businesses already suffering in drought. Stock to be shifted ahead of more fire expected this weekend. @abcmelbourne #gippsnews #gippslandfires pic.twitter.com/s98HOLuE9G

— Nicole Asher (@Nic_Asher) January 2, 2020

I mentioned earlier this morning that Scott Morrison has declined to go on ABC News Breakfast to discuss the fires. That’s according to Michael Rowland, who noted the PM was yesterday entertaining the Australian and New Zealand cricket teams at Kirribilli House.

“Hopefully we will see the prime minister touring some of the fire-ravaged areas over the course of the next day or so,” Rowland told viewers.

The reaction to the fact Morrison is not front and centre during the crisis is continuing.

The Ten Network’s national affairs editor, Hugh Riminton, has written this devastating piece.

Riminton argues that those arguing against action on the climate emergency have shifted from denial to the claim that Australia’s emissions are not globally significant.

But citing Australia’s efforts at war time and comparing, he writes:

And broadly speaking, that’s true. Our emissions, at less than 2% of global totals, will not be decisive in the fight. Therefore, it follows, we can change nothing. So let’s sprout new coalmines all over Queensland and leave the issue to someone else.

And how gutless would that be?

In a nation that rightly reveres its Anzac ideals, here’s a reminder: Australia has never beaten any deadly threat on our own.

Arguing the response from Canberra has equated to “nothing”, he concludes:

We are a burning nation led by cowards. It’s time we all got a lot more angry about it.

The full piece is definitely worth a read.

Updated

Incredibly haunting photo from David Caird in today’s Oz pic.twitter.com/cG7g3elVpD

— Greg Bearup (@gbearup) January 1, 2020

Some readers from outside Australia have been in touch about the current fundraising efforts. To remind you, the Red Cross is running a fundraising drive, which you can read about here.

My colleague Naaman Zhou looked at the ways you can assist in this story. Note that he compiled this piece before the Red Cross drive was established.

On the subject of the long queues at supermarkets on the NSW south coast, I have received this statement from a Woolworths spokesperson:

We’re working hard to keep stores on the south coast replenished with key essentials for the local community. All stores are currently open for trading with only our Bermagui store set to close at midday due to the planned evacuation of the town.

We understand it’s an anxious time and thank customers for their patience as we manage the increased demand and the road closures.

We’re also working closely with our partner the Salvation Army to ensure essential supplies are available for them to support their work in evacuation centres set up around the state.

For those in Bateman’s Bay, due to power and phone issues, the Woolies there is only accepting cash. Eftpos is not available.

Updated

More from that press conference with authorities in eastern Victoria.

Andy Gillem, the incident controller for the #Gippslandfires, says the fire is expected to move south of Nowa Nowa on Saturday. That's towards the Lake Tyers community.

— Calla Wahlquist (@callapilla) January 1, 2020

My colleague, Calla Wahlquist, was in Lake Tyers this week.

I just got back from Lake Tyers community, where about 40 people are preparing for another bad day on Saturday. They’re running out of water and only have a slip-on tank for the ute. Charmaine Sellings, the fire captain, is worried but she says the community is holding together. pic.twitter.com/2uJKpTLtsn

— Calla Wahlquist (@callapilla) January 1, 2020

When the birds start singing fire engine sounds... 😧
Credit: Gregory Andrews, Newcastle. pic.twitter.com/g11BMry1HC

— Isobel Roe (@isobelroe) January 1, 2020

The Insurance Council has updated its figures this morning: there have now been 4,299 claims made totalling $297m.

Updated

Vital water supplies are being brought to Mallacoota. @9NewsAUS pic.twitter.com/HaeDc1SSIk

— Mimi Becker (@MimiRoseBecker) January 1, 2020

We’ve just been to a briefing about the evacuation of Bendalong. There are about 1000 people in the caravan park, including huge numbers of kids, plus at least 3000 more in the villages of Bendalong, North Bendalong, Manyana and Cunjurong Point.

We’ve been told they will be letting people out in groups of 20 and we will be given time slots to leave over the next two days. They really want people out by Saturday, when the conditions are forecast to be catastrophic.

The Bendalong road, the only way in and out has been impacted heavily by fire and we were told we would be driving over downed power lines.

Once people reach the highway, they are expecting it to take 4 hours to reach Nowra, which usually takes 40 minutes.

The big message is: don’t go if you don’t have enough fuel.

The meeting was pretty calm but clearly families are keen to get out.

North Bendalong
Fire at North Bendalong, NSW, South Coast, 31 December 2019. Photograph: Anne Davies/The Guardian
north bendalong
Fire at North Bendalong, NSW, South Coast, 31 December 2019. Photograph: Jackie Munro/The Guardian

Updated

Man charged with arson over fire in East Gippsland

Police in Victoria have charged a 36-year-old man with arson for allegedly starting a small fire in Johnsonville, which is in the midst of the bushfire-affected area in East Gippsland between Nicholson and Swan Reach, at 6.45pm last night.

The charges, according to leading senior constable Natalie Dean, was “recklessly cause bushfire and drug-related offences. The man will appear in Bairnsdale magistrates court this morning.”

There is obviously a pretty emotional reaction to these kind of charges when Australia is in the grips of a bushfire crisis and federal politicians have been highlighting the role of arsonists in starting bushfires, but it is worth noting that the vast majority of the bushfires that are burning in Australia right now were started by lightning.

The three major fires that form the East Gippsland fire complex were all started by lightning, and hundreds more small fires were started by lightning when the pyrocumulonimbus from the 14km-high smoke column began generating its own thunderstorms. You can read more about that phenomenon here.

According to Crime Statistics Victoria, there were 32 recorded incidents of someone being charged with causing a bushfire between 1 January and 30 September, 2019. In 2018, 48 incidents of someone being charged with causing a bushfire were recorded.

Updated

Insurance industry declares a catastrophe in hundreds of Australian postcodes

The insurance industry has declared a catastrophe in hundreds of postcodes, stretching from East Gippsland in Victoria all the way north to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

So far there have been 3,870 insurance claims totalling more than $182m – but these numbers are bound to soar once damage is assessed from the fires over the new year period.

The Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009, which killed 173 people, caused about $1.7bn in damage, while the 1967 Black Tuesday fires in Tasmania, which killed 62 people, did more than $2bn in damage (in 2017 dollars).

The insurance catastrophe declared postcodes across Australia right now. #nswfires #vicfires pic.twitter.com/3REJVazjHt

— Luke Henriques-Gomes (@lukehgomes) January 1, 2020

Updated

There is huge concern among people on the NSW south coast, as there would be in East Gippsland, in areas that have not yet burned.

The situation that has fuelled much of this bushfire crisis – tinder-dry bushland after a severe drought – means the high risk remains in places that have not yet burned. The forecast for extreme weather conditions at the weekend are also scary.

Katherine Boland, an artist and author from Merimbula on the NSW south coast, told Guardian Australia yesterday she would be at great risk if the bush near her property was in the path of a fire.

“The worry for me is where I live at Merimbula is on the lake. My 90-year-old mother lives a couple of doors down from where I live. I’m thinking about how I could get her out and where could I go.

“I’ve actually lived in the area near the bush for 30 years. There were quite a few scary incidents but I’ve never experienced anything like this in my 30 years living in this area.

“We lived in the bush for all that time and never had to be evacuated. Everybody in this area knew this was going to happen, it’s been so bad here that even the natives, the gum trees were stressed out and dying. It’s tinder dry.”

Updated

Holidaymakers, vulnerable people evacuated from Mallacoota by sea

Tony Murphy, the deputy emergency management Victoria commissioner, says authorities have already moved vulnerable people out of Mallacoota, the small coastal community on the Victoria-NSW border.

You’ll remember 4,000 people were huddled on the beach there on Tuesday as fire converged on the town. They have since been waiting for navy ship HMAS Choules to arrive.

Murphy says they will “have the opportunity” to evacuate 500 people today, but he notes some people with 4WDs and caravans may wish to stay and leave later by road.

He warns that might take two to three weeks.

With the number of people inMallacoota, this is going to take days, if not weeks, to be able to achieve. But we’ll do the absolute best we can with the defence force, with the other agencies in support, to get people to the place they need to be.

People are desperate to leave Mallacoota. This group has hired a private charter. They say help hasn’t come fast enough. HMAS Choules is now off shore. @9NewsAUS pic.twitter.com/eoB92lRUYo

— Mimi Becker (@MimiRoseBecker) January 1, 2020

Updated

Murphy says that the message from authorities is that those in a remote area or at-risk areas should leave, and leave early.

He says the best option is to move to a major centre where there are services and support available.

“So if you’re in remote communities, we’ll be sending out strong messaging you shouldn’t be there, you should be in a safer place. That will be a very strong message.”

Andy Gillem, the Gippsland incident controller, says there are 900 people are working north of Bairnsdale, including towns like Clifton Creek, which was heavily impacted by the fires.

He says there are active fires in the Swift’s Creek Valley, and another creeping towards Ensay, the bottom of Mount Hotham and the Omeo area.

“The fire crews are preparing the communities for the coming period of warm weather on the Friday and Saturday, and also to allow the emergency services to get access to the communities that are isolated,” he says.

“There’s a lot of fire-affected roads and tracks and crews are working hard to maintain or regain access to those areas.”

Updated

A briefing has begun in Bairnsdale in East Gippsland.

There are 50 fires burning throughout the state, says Tony Murphy, the deputy emergency management Victoria commissioner.

“The other issue we do have at the moment, we’re anticipating some very significant fire weather coming into the weekend and on Saturday and that runs the risk of these fires growing in size yet again,” Murphy says.

“The other point I would like to make, we’re offering some very significant relief to communities at the moment, including communities like Mallacoota, but also more remote communities in Gippsland, like Cann River.”

Updated

Things are looking very difficult in Narooma.

Last night we queued for 5 hours in Narooma to get fuel. As far as I know the business owners organised a generator themselves. It took hours to get it working. They closed at midnight with many unhappy people not getting fuel. @abcnews #nswfires pic.twitter.com/pQCQeR7RnC

— Lucy Shannon (@LucyShannon9) January 1, 2020

Meanwhile, the ABC’s Melissa Clarke is in Moruya, where she says people have been queuing outside the local supermarket since 6am.

Staff have been letting people in 20 at a time to avoid chaos, Clarke says.

Updated

Canberra tops list of city with world's worst air quality

Here is the top 10 cities with the worst air quality in the world. At 10am, Canberra again has topped the list.

Sydney is in 34th place.

We’ve heard people have been rushing to hardware stores to pick up face masks. Some have sold out.

At 10am, Canberra is again the city with the worst air quality in the world. Same as yesterday. Sydney is in 34th place. https://t.co/H2W0xbRFNq pic.twitter.com/0iPSJY0Zw0

— Luke Henriques-Gomes (@lukehgomes) January 1, 2020

Home sweet home #canberrasmoke pic.twitter.com/X7wnzzHpD2

— Lauren Sandeman (@shesthesandman) January 1, 2020

Updated

Mass exodus from NSW south coast

It looks like lots of people are heeding the advice of authorities telling people to get out of the NSW south coast in the next 24 hours.

Just a section of the very long line of cars trying to get out of Batemans Bay before Saturday. Barely moving at a crawl. @abcnews @abcsydney @NSWRFS #nswfires pic.twitter.com/xxc14npHwL

— Jonathan Hair (@JonathanHair) January 1, 2020

Updated

The queue at Woolies in Moruya. The limited staff at Woolies are carefully organising people in and out to avoid rushes.#nswfires @woolworths @abcnews pic.twitter.com/SZdyMM5bSk

— Melissa Clarke (@Clarke_Melissa) January 1, 2020

NSW community of Tumbarumba advised to evacuate – reports

I have received two separate emails from people telling me that the residents in the small NSW community of Tumbarumba have been advised to evacuate the town ahead of Saturday.

Fire crews have told residents they can’t guarantee the safety of those in the town with fierce winds predicted. There is currently no phone coverage or electricity.

This area is outside the south coast region where the RFS has said holidaymakers must leave. Roads to the north, south and east are blocked by fire.

Two readers have told me people in the small NSW town of Tumbarumba have been also been told to get out before Saturday. Roads to the east, south and north currently blocked by fire. These fires are separate to those along the South Coast. #nswfires pic.twitter.com/R0txqRtLHO

— Luke Henriques-Gomes (@lukehgomes) January 1, 2020

Updated

The Sugar Pine Walk near Tumbarumba after the fires 😔 #NSWfires pic.twitter.com/ufjrXIBgGB

— Jo Lauder (@jolauder) January 1, 2020

Yesterday, the air quality in Canberra was at one point the worst of any city in the world.

Joined a long ( but fruitless) line waiting for the hardware store to open in Canberra this morning on the search for P2 masks. Hardware guy: “you won’t find one in Canberra, or Goulburn for that matter”

— Gillian Bradford (@bradders2) January 1, 2020

Yesterday, residents in the isolated community of Cann River were expressing concern about food shortages and other supply issues. Some told media they felt they were being forgotten.

The town is along the Princes Highway between Orbost and Mallacoota and has been cut off due to the fires.

Red Cross packages will be dropped in the town by air today.

Updated

But Constance adds, “once this (the fires) all goes, please come back”.

Tourism is crucial to communities on the south coast, which rely on the extra business during the holiday period.

Updated

The NSW transport minister, Andrew Constance, is appearing on the ABC right now from the fire-impacted community of Batemans Bay.

He advises that the Princes Highway is currently open to the north, allowing people to reach Sydney. To get to Canberra, they will have to go through Bega.

Constance warns Saturday will be a “terrible day” that will force road closures through the area.

“We don’t want people trapped here because we are going to see, more than likely, the region cut off again, road-wise, potentially electricity-wise,” he says.

“They’re expecting the forecasts to be as bad as Tuesday, if not worse. We just need people out of the area. That way we can use the valuable resources we’ve got to look after local people.”

Updated

Some more on the prime minister’s activities today.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will provide an update on firefighting operations today, including advising on defence capabilities. #7NEWS #auspol

— Jennifer Bechwati (@jenbechwati) January 1, 2020

Updated

This was the scene at Narooma yesterday.

Queuing to shop in a dark supermarket without power at Narooma. #nswfires #southcoastfires @abcnews pic.twitter.com/EaQ7K2gZdF

— Lucy Shannon (@LucyShannon9) January 1, 2020

The Victorian Premier @DanielAndrewsMP has told ABC Gippsland a naval ship will soon arrive in the bushfire-affected town of Mallacoota. He says details of the evacuation are still being worked out #gippsnews #vicfires

— Jarrod Whittaker (@JarrodWhittaker) January 1, 2020

The ABC has published this story saying that 250 truck drivers and holidaymakers are stranded at a remote roadhouse on the Nullarbor as a result of out-of-control bushfires.

The Caiguna Roadhouse, which is 400km east of Norseman along the Eyre Highway, is now running out of toilet paper, beer and essential food items. The highway joins Western Australia and South Australia.

The town has been cut off for extended periods over the past fortnight, the ABC reports, although the fire front is 200km away.

Updated

C’mon @TennisAustralia surely we can do a pre @AustralianOpen exho to raise funds for those affected by the fires? 🤷🏼‍♂️🤷🏼‍♂️

— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) January 1, 2020

381 homes confirmed lost on NSW south coast as tourists told to leave

We start the day with some sad news.

The number of homes destroyed on the south coast after fires hit communities on Tuesday has risen from 176 to 381. This is a result of authorities returning to towns to assess the damage.

The ABC reports that this takes the number of homes lost in NSW over the bushfire season to 1,298.

BREAKING: The number of homes destroyed by bushfires on the NSW South Coast has jumped from 176 to 381. Total number of homes lost in this bushfire crisis climbs to 1298. Devastating. #NSWfires #AustralianFires @BreakfastNews

— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) January 1, 2020

Meanwhile, authorities are taking no risks ahead of what is expected to be extreme fire danger conditions on Saturday.

Holidaymakers on the south coast have been told they must leave the area before Saturday.

The map below shows the area involved.

Tourist Leave Zone – South Coast Bush Fires

Dangerous conditions for holiday makers on the South Coast of NSW this weekend

With the widespread power and communications outages across the South Coast please share this information to as many affected people as possible. #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/JvbwrpC1fe

— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 1, 2020

Updated

Good morning. I’m Luke Henriques-Gomes. Thanks for joining us for another day of live bushfire coverage.

Yesterday, the death toll rose as it was confirmed nine people have died since Christmas Day. But authorities are already warning that figure will rise when they are able to enter more communities devastated by the fires on Tuesday.

We’ll be with you throughout the day. If you want to get in touch, you can send me an email at luke.henriques-gomes@theguardian.com or contact me on Twitter (@lukehgomes).

Updated

Contributors

Helen Davidson (now) and Luke Henriques-Gomes and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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