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More than 100 people escorted out of Mallacoota

But The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have now confirmed from the Department of Defence that none of its Bushmaster armoured vehicles were used in the evacuations of civilians.

Police vehicles, fire trucks and ambulances have instead been used as part of the evacuations.

The ADF’s chief of joint operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, said 128 people had been escorted out of the town, with the escorts needed to protect them against falling trees.

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“It’s important to stress that it’s still unsafe to just freely move along those routes,” he said.

“That access work continues in Victoria, particularly along the Princes Highway, and that route between Mallacoota and the Princes Highway itself.”

Lt Gen Bilton said the escorts were using the normal roads to get out of the town, but it was a “deliberate slow process”.

“And there are a number of other lateral routes around Orbost and Omeo as well where work continues,” he said.

“But it’s important to stress it is still unsafe to just freely move along those routes and that’s why we’re providing that escort capability.”

He said the ADF was working with the Victorian government to open the road to Mallacoota, but it could be weeks before there was full access.

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In NSW, a 70-kilometre fire break is being built in the Bondo State Forest, with 1000 metres being cleared a day.

The fire break is being dug partly to protect significant timber plantations around the town of Tumut, with the community’s economy heavily reliant on local timber mills.

“Tumut is becoming more of a logistics centre, so we continue to place more resources in there, including resources for the general health and wellbeing of the community,” Lt Gen Bilton said.

He said 2700 Defence reservists had been deployed in response to the bushfire crisis.

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