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17 Jan 2020 | 08:05 AM UTC

Australia: Fresh emergency warnings and evacuations issued in Victoria January 17 /update 32

Officials issue new emergency warnings and evacuation orders in Victoria state on January 17; heightened security and significant transportation and power disruptions expected.

environment
security
transportation
AUS

Event

Evacuation warnings have been issued for the Buffalo Creek, Merriang, and surrounding areas (Victoria state) at around 19:30 (local time) on Friday, January 17. Further emergency warnings have been issued for the Buffalo River and Nug Nug areas, as 74 fire incidents were still reported across the state as of 22:30. In New South Wales (NSW), the Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) has reported around 75 ongoing fires at the "advice" level across the state.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has issued severe thunderstorm warnings for Friday evening for the Central Coast, Whitsundays, Southeast Coast, Northern Goldfields and Upper Flinders, Herbert, Lower Burdekin, Central Highlands, Coalfields, Wide Bay, Burnett, Darling Downs, and Granite Belt districts. Rain is expected to ease the bushfire crisis coming days, however has the potential to trigger landslides and flooding across the affected areas.

A heightened security presence, road closures, telecommunication disruptions, and power outages are to be expected in the vicinity of any wildfire. Up-to-date information on the fires in NSW can be found here, and in Victoria here. 

Context

Over 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) of land have been burned, and at least 2000 houses destroyed since the wildfires broke out on October 9. At least 28 people have also died in the region as of January 13. Authorities have indicated that the fires were due to high temperatures and droughts.

Wildfires are an annual event in Australia between December and February; however, authorities have been on high alert since September 2015 over unseasonably warm temperatures, prompting scientists to speculate that climate change could be extending and increasing the intensity of the fire season.

Advice

Individuals in the affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, keep abreast of warnings, anticipate transportation and power disruptions, and adhere to any instructions issued by local authorities, notably evacuation orders.