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Reservists rolled out as Victoria braces for rising fire toll

Premier Daniel Andrews said “grave fears” were held for six people who remain missing in Victoria but said it was positive that the figure had been revised down from 21.

“We are by no means out of this,” Mr Andrews said.

“Townships will continue to be under threat. Lives can be lost if people don’t follow the instructions they’re given.

“Properties have been lost. And more, potentially, will be lost overnight.”

Two people have been confirmed dead in Victoria, but emergency services warned they still had not been able to get into some devastated areas in remote areas of East Gippsland.

HMAS Choules arrives at Hastings

HMAS Choules arrives at HastingsCredit:Ian Currie

A wind change late on Saturday afternoon fuelled worsening conditions across the Alpine region and the state’s north-east, prompting fresh warnings.

The Navy’s largest amphibious ship, HMAS Adelaide, set sail from Sydney on Saturday to join the fleet supporting fire efforts.

The helicopter-equipped ship will join other Navy vessels already assisting in evacuations from fire-ravaged areas, stationed off the coast along the NSW-Victorian border with up to 400 crew including medical staff and loaded with 300 tonnes of medical supplies.

Mr Morrison also announced an additional $20 million to lease an additional four fire-fighting aircraft, available within the next two weeks, to assist state forces over the long fire season ahead in Victoria.

The government has secured two long-range fixed wing DC-10s with 36,000 litres capacity and two medium-range fixed-wing Large Air Tankers with 11,000 litre capacity.

Mr Morrison said operational costs of water bombing aircraft will be shared with states and territories as they use the aircraft.

An additional three Chinook helicopters will support evacuation and transport tasks out of the East Sale RAAF base, along with a C-17 Globemaster and two C-130J Hercules.

“Today’s decision puts more boots on the ground, puts more planes in the sky, puts more ships at sea, and puts more trucks to roll into support affected communities,” Mr Morrison said in Canberra.

He said the “posture” of federal governments had shifted from reactive to proactive – moving from responding to assistance requests from states to actively leading elements of bushfire efforts.

“There is still a very long way to go and there are clearly communities that need additional help,” he said.

“The priority of this deployment is to assist in ensuring the safety of life, to support the evacuation of affected people, particularly in isolated communities and to provide assistance to isolated communities and support state-managed evacuation centres.”

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said there said about 110 property losses with “many, many communities” that authorties have not been able to enter.

“The message still is that even though the change has gone through, it is still hot up in the north,” Mr Crisp said.

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“We’ve got so much fire out there at the moment … but a lot of these fires are now terrain driven.

“They will slowly creep down the hill or down the mountain and they will just pick up a bit of pace and that is how they will slowly move.”

Almost 1000 people from Mallacoota arrived at Hastings on HMAS Choules on Saturday evening after a near 20-hour trip along the coast while a a second evacuation by sea of those still in the eastern coastal town will take place on Sunday.

About 350 people in Mallacoota are still waiting to be evacuated.

More than 25 fires continued to burn across East Gippsland alone on Saturday evening, threatening remote communities including Anglers Rest, Swift Creek and Omeo after a cool change brought a dangerous wind.

East Gippsland CFA incident controller, Andy Gillham, told reporters in Bairnsdale it was an “extremely difficult day” for communities.

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“We don’t know what the impacts have been,” Mr Gillham said. “We suspect there have been a number of homes lost today.”

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