People Trapped In Mallacoota Describe “Terrifying” Horror As Day Turned Into Night

Day turned to night this morning in Mallacoota, as emergency warnings sounded through the Victorian town telling people to get down to the beach.

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The residents and tourists visiting the town were unable to evacuate due to surrounding fires, meaning the beach was the last call. About 4,000 people were trapped down there this morning, with three fire crews working to protect them. If the fire reached, their last defence was to flee into the water.

“We were ready to jump in,” local David Geoffrey told the ABC this morning.

The temperature jumped 26 degrees in less than eight minutes, reaching 49 degrees at 8am. It was brought on by the nearby fires, bearing down on the town.

“You could feel the wind of the fire when it hit town,” Geoffrey said.

“Imagine someone just dropping a big blanket or a big… I don’t know, something huge and the wind pushing, when it pushes back at your face. It was like that. It was like something ginormous just pushed back and that was the fire. And then, basically, it was game on.”

He added: “You just don’t want to go through something like this. It was terrifying.”

People shared photos of a blackened sky turning red on social media, with people huddled on the beach.

People trapped on the beach thought the red sky meant the fire was bearing down, but thankfully it meant the smoke was easing up, with the sun’s light able to break through.

“I believe it was God’s intervention,” Geoffrey said.

“It absolutely just burst the smoke and the redness was the sun coming through the smoke, not the fire about to obliterate all of us down here. Because there’s nothing they could have done if that had happened. It doesn’t matter how many fire trucks you have.”

Geoffrey said he could hear gas cylinders exploding, indicating people’s homes had been lost.

Despite fears for his home and business, he said he was staying put.

“You’d be crazy to leave,” he said, adding that it would be a “deathtrap” to return to his business.

Another resident, who runs local clothing company Cubin’, shared a terrifying video to Facebook.

“Holy fuck,” he said, wearing what appeared to be ski goggles and a mask.

“That behind me is fucking Mallacoota. Fuck. We decided to fuck off from the fucking house, thank fuck we did, because now the fire front’s come through.”

Twitter user @bluesfestblues provided updates from his dad, whom he said was down on the wharf. He said people could hear gas cylinders exploding, which indicated houses were bing lost.

“This will go on all day and tonight,” he quoted his dad as saying. “Maybe tomorrow I will find out about my house and car.”

“Mallacoota is currently under the attack at the moment,” Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said at a media conference shortly after 11am this morning.

“The community is right now under threat but we will hold our line and they will be saved and protected.”

He paid tribute to the firefighters, both volunteer and paid, credited with doing a stand-out job in keeping the community safe.

“These fires – they’ve seen fire conditions that we haven’t experienced for a long time and a lot of our people have never experienced it before,” Crisp said.

“The reality is – and it’s a little crass – but I spoke to them again this morning, and they said, “It scared the crap out of us”. That’s from our firefighters. Don’t think our firefighters because they wear a uniform are superheroes. They’re people. They’re working with our communities to make sure they’re safe as well. You’ve got to be proud of that as well.”

Four people are currently unaccounted for, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said. There are grave fears held for their safety, but due to the changing and dangerous situation, fire crews are unable to search for them.

Andrews also said a significant number of structures and homes were lost, with more being “lost as we speak”, but exact numbers are too difficult to yet confirm. More than 200,000 hectares have burned, and more than 200 new fires have started in the last 24 hours.

Fires are creating super hot columns up to 15km high, creating dangerous weather conditions in addition to the fires. It means fire fighting helicopters and planes can be too dangerous to use.

Australia has requested 70 more firefighters from Canada and the United States.

By almost midday, the situation had somewhat settled at Mallacoota, with Geoffrey telling the ABC he felt “relief” and that the worst of it had passed.

“But we don’t know what’s going on around the perimeter.”