State Of Disaster Declared In Victoria Ahead Of “Unprecedented” Risk To Life And Property

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has declared a state of disaster for the first time ever, responding to an “unprecedented risk” from bushfire.

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The state of disaster applies to much of the eastern part of the state, including the East Gippsland shire, Mansfield shire, Wellington shire, Wangaratta rural shire, Towong shire, Alpine shire, Mount Butler, Mount Hotham, and Mount Stirling Alpine Resorts.

It is the first time the state has invoked these powers, which were included in state legislation following the devastating Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.

“Essentially this declaration is the first time these powers have been used because we face unprecedented risk to life and property in coming days,” Andrews said yesterday.

“The fires are unprecedented in their size, their scale and the risk they pose to so many people right across affected communities.

“If you can leave, you must leave — if you don’t we simply cannot guarantee your safety.

“Others may be put into harm’s way in trying to protect you and you may well find yourself isolated and cut-off for an extended period of time following fire activity that will almost certainly occur [Friday], Saturday and potentially into Sunday.”

He added on Nine this morning that he doesn’t want any more small communities cut off from food, water and power. “We already have a number of those.”

Residents of Mallacoota were forced to flee to the beach as the fire bore down. Photo: Supplied.

The declaration gives the government and Minister for Emergency Services broad powers, including the power to take possession of private property to respond to the fires, control the movement in and out of a disaster area, and to direct any government agency “to do, or refrain from doing, any function, power, duty or responsibility.”

It will remain in force for once month, unless it is revoked or varied by Andrews.

Two people are dead in Victoria and at least 17 people are unaccounted for, with grave fears held for their safety. Andrews said this morning he expects that number to increase.

It comes as fire conditions are set to worsen in Victoria and NSW, which is also in a state of emergency.

Thousands are fleeing bushfire affected areas ahead of extreme fire conditions expected for Saturday, with temperatures forecast above 40 degrees in some areas.

“We have a small window of opportunity,” Assistant Emergency Services Commissioner Deb Abbott said.

There are more than 50 fires raging across the state, with two emergency warnings issued on Friday morning.