The effort to rescue and feed thousands of people stuck in isolated towns in Victoria’s fire-ravaged east has started.
The military arrived in East Gippsland on Wednesday and Black Hawk helicopters and a navy ship are helping to get evacuees off the beach at Mallacoota.
“The naval vessel is not far away, it will land fairly soon,” Premier Daniel Andrews told ABC Gippsland on Thursday.
“We think around 3000 tourists and 1000 locals are there. Not all of those will want to leave, not all can get on the vessel at one time.
“Then there’s a whole lot of planning going on about where that vessel will go, it will be a long trip, potentially a 10 or 12 hour trip to take them to another port and then to provide them with all the support they will need.”
Firefighter shift changes are also happening by helicopter in a Victoria-first and police shipped in supplies to Mallacoota on New Years Day too.
A boil water notice for Mallacoota has been lifted, but people are asked to restrict to essential use only.
Supplies including satellite phones will be dropped at communities such as Cann River on Thursday.
The deadly fires have burnt through more than 766,000 hectares across Victoria.
There are 47 fires currently going statewide, mostly in East Gippsland.
Another fire straddling the NSW-Victoria border at Corryong is also threatening lives.
On Wednesday it was revealed Victoria’s fires claimed a life.
Mick Roberts had not made contact with family for more than 24 hours and on Wednesday his niece Leah Parson confirmed on the East Gippsland fire season 2019-2020 Facebook page he had been found dead at his home.
Mr Andrews said Mr Roberts was one of four people missing in the Gippsland fires.
“That’s the worst of all news. We do have very great news for the psyche of at least three others,” Mr Andrews said.
“We do have reports of additional missing persons but I’ll have more to say about that late on today once we’ve confirmed those numbers, but we have lost lives as part of this fire and that is a terrible tragedy.
Firefighters will be helped on Thursday by moderate conditions, with temperatures in East Gippsland in the low to mid 20s expected to be paired with fairly light winds of up to 20 km/h.
As of Thursday morning, all fires remained at a watch and act level.
The mercury is forecast to creep up in the region on Friday, before reaching the 40s on Saturday, when the heat, hot winds and possible thunderstorms will increase the risk of new fires.
So far, confirmed property losses are 24 structures at Buchan, 19 at Sarsfield, 10 at Mallacoota and up to 15 at Cudgewa.
About 24 remote communities have lost power and phone coverage.