Bushfires in Victoria and New South Wales are spewing a massive current of smoke across the Tasman towards New Zealand.
Imagery from the Japanese weather satellite Himawari-8 shows a blanket of smoke wide enough to cover the entire South Island.
Metservice meteorologist Aidan Pyselman told Stuff NZ they had been tracking the smoke for several weeks since the fires began.
“It’s been happening for quite some time since the Aussie bushfires have been going. At the moment it’s definitely more noticeable, especially over the South Island,” he said.
Incredible photos from the aerial firefighting effort near Bairnsdale on Tuesday have just been released.
A total of 33 fires are still burning across Victoria as of 9pm, with the majority of those blazes in East Gippsland and Corryong.
The State Control Centre have confirmed at least 43 structures have been levelled in East Gippsland.
Further damage assessments by firefighters in the region likely won’t be completed this evening, as the fireground in affected areas is still difficult to access.
People in Mallacoota are being urged to boil tap water before drinking it.
Forest Fire Management Victoria has issued an alert because the fire has put heavy demands on tap water that is affecting the supply of water.
The alert notes that bottled water is available from the local IGA supermarket free of charge, and additional supplies are on their way.
It urges all residents and visitors to restrict their water use immediately to essential use, and that the water supply should return to normal within three days .
Premier Daniel Andrews has tweeted out a sombre New Year’s Eve message paying tribute to those fighting the state’s bushfires:
We have put together a gallery of photos taken today from Sarsfield, which was devastated by a bushfire, and the relief centre in Bairnsdale, where people have taken shelter.
The Princes Highway has just been reopened to allow access to Lakes Entrance, according to VicTraffic.
It has been re-opened to traffic between Bairnsdale and Lake Tyers Beach Road.
Many holidaymakers and residents who had fled from East Gippsland were stuck in Lakes Entrance last night after the highway was closed due to fire concerns.
However, the road remains closed east of Lakes Entrance to the New South Wales border, a distance of more than 150 kilometres.
A total of 33 fires are still burning across Victoria as of 7pm Tuesday, with the majority of those blazes in East Gippsland.
Emergency warnings for the Corryong fire in the far north east have now expanded to connect with emergency warnings for the East Gippsland fires:
‘That’s a massive area under an emergency warning right now,” said a media spokesman at the State Control Centre. “It’s quite unusual.”
The emergency warning has been issued for Beetoomba, Benambra, Berringama, Biggara, Bringenbrong, Brumby, Bungil, Burrowye, Cobberas, Colac Colac, Corryong, Crawford Crossing, Cudgewa, Cudgewa North, Dartmouth, Greg Greg, Guys Forest, Hodgson Crossing, Khancoban, Koetong, Lucyvale, McNamara Crossing, Mount Alfred, Mount Alfred Gap, Nariel Creek, Nariel Gap, Nariel Valley, Pine Mountain, Shelley, Staceys Bridge, Suggan Buggan, The Lightwood, Thologolong, Thowgla, Thowgla Upper, Thowgla Valley, Tintaldra, Tom Groggin, Towong, Towong Upper, Walwa, Willow Crossing.
Anyone in these areas is urged to take shelters indoors immediately as it is too late to leave the area.
More than 470,0000 hectares of land have been affected by the fires in Victoria.
The emergency warning for pretty much the Mallacoota area has been updated and is included verbatim below:
There are currently two bushfires that are not yet under control.
One fire is currently travelling from Wingan River in an easterly direction and has impacted the Mallacoota, Genoa, Karbeethong and Gipsy Point communities and has also moved into NSW.
The second fire is travelling from Goongerah in a south easterly direction and has impacted Club Terrace and the Princes Highway.
Ash and embers are falling ahead of the main fires, which may cause spot fires.
MALLACOOTA. This message is for people at Mallacoota and surrounding communities
One fire is currently travelling from Wingan River in an easterly direction and has impacted Mallacoota, Genoa, Karbeethong and Gipsy Point.
Crews are focusing their efforts on asset protection around the township.
It is too late to leave, the safest option is to shelter indoors.
An assembly area has been established at the Mallacoota Main Community Hall at Allan Drive.
The Genoa-Mallacoota Road is closed.
We understand that residents are anxious to find out about the full impact of these fires on their individual properties and communities, however, the full impact will not be known until Rapid
Impact Assessment teams have been through the areas, which cannot occur before roads have been made safe.
We urge community members and tourists not to drive around impacted areas. The areas may be hazardous with fallen trees, power lines that could be live and impacted buildings that may contain asbestos.
TAMBOON & BEMM RIVER. This message is for people at Tamboon, Furnell, Bemm River and surrounding communities.
There is fire around the Tamboon, Bemm River and Swan Lake areas.
It is too late to leave, shelter in place, stay aware of the current situation and ensure you remain vigilant.
CANN RIVER, CLUB TERRACE & COMBIENBAR. This message is for people at Cann River, Club Terrace and surrounding communities.
The fire has now crossed the Bonang Road has impacted Club Terrace and Combienbar and could impact Cann River.
It it too late to leave, shelter in place, stay aware of the current situation and ensure you remain vigilant.
You are in danger if you are in the Mallacoota, Genoa, Karbeethong and Gipsy Point areas and need to act immediately to survive.
The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately. It is too late to leave.
Leaving now would be deadly.
Royal Australian Navy ships will sail to the rescue of Victorian and NSW coastal towns engulfed by the bushfires that plunged both states into crisis on New Years Eve.
Thousands of holidaymakers remain trapped by fires in Victoria’s east on Tuesday, with no land route out of the fire zone expected to be open for days, The Age‘s state political team is reporting.
Mallacoota, in Victoria’s far south-east, and Corryong, in the north-east, were both saved on Tuesday afternoon by changes of wind direction but with “numerous” homes lost on the outskirts of both communities.
Despite the reprieves, it is unclear how the towns will be supplied with food, water and medicines with flames and smoke still making access to Mallacoota and Corryong, as well as other towns and villages around the east of the state, difficult.
As residents returned to Sarsfield this morning, some described the area as looking like a ‘warzone’, Nine News is reporting.
Elly Baker’s home is still standing, but her next-door neighbours – an elderly couple – lost their house when fires swept through the area overnight.
“It hasn’t sunk it yet. It’ll take me a few days hit before it hits you like a brick in the guts,” she said.
At least 43 structures have been levelled in East Gippsland.