On Tuesday, thousands of holidaymakers and residents were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeastern Australia, as blazes tore through popular tourist areas leaving little land to escape by.
Four thousand people were stranded on the town of Mallacoota’s foreshore and many others were seeking refuge on beaches in fire-circled seaside towns up and down a 200-kilometer (135-mile) coastal strip.
Many people with boats also took the sea, hoping for relief from Australia’s month-long bushfire crisis.
Dozens of properties were believed to have been lost since late Monday, and in New South Wales and Victoria states at least seven people were unaccounted for as fires hit well-populated cities such as Batemans Bay.
The blazes were so extreme in some areas, the smoke so dense, and the dry lightning storms caused by fire so severe that aerial detection and waterbombing had to be stopped, the Rural Fire Service of New South Wales said.
Smoke turned day to night in Mallacoota and the authorities said that nearby fires caused intense thunderstorms and “section attacks.”
“We’ve got a fire that looks like it’s about to impact on Mallacoota,” Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp told local media, adding that firefighters had been deployed to protect the community.
For days, officials had warned tens of thousands of tourists enjoying Australia’s summer holidays to leave the area, but it was now too late for thousands to leave.