Australia calls for another mass evacuation as monster bushfires return

Australian authorities urged another mass evacuation across the country's heavily populated southeast on Thursday as a return of hot weather fanned huge bushfires threatening several towns and communities.
"If you receive instructions to leave, then you must leave," Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said in a televised briefing. "That is the only way to guarantee your safety. It is dangerous to be in some of these communities. We cannot guarantee your safety."
Twenty-seven people have died, according to the federal government, as the monster fires have scorched through more than 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) of land, an area the size of South Korea. Thousands of people have been made homeless and thousands more have had to evacuate repeatedly because of the volatility of the fires.
Locals in the Victoria state coastal town of Mallacoota, where thousands of people were stranded on the beachfront for days until a military evacuation that only ended on Wednesday, were among those again advised to flee.
"If we evacuate, where do we go?" said Mark Tregellas, who spent New Year's Eve on a boat ramp as fire destroyed much of his town, and one of around 1,000 locals who decided to stay.
"The electricity is slowly coming back but everyone is reliant on generators, and fuel for those is very limited," he told Reuters by telephone from his house. "People have now run out of petrol so most in the town are now riding on bicycles."
Further north, in the NSW coastal town of Merimbula, David Gatrell, 72, was laying out a tent in a sports ground after leaving his home about 60 kilometers (37 miles) away.
"There are four roads out of the village and three are blocked," Gatrell told Reuters. "There's only one way out and I don't want to take my chances."
Authorities have warned that the huge fires, spurred by high temperatures, strong winds and a three-year drought, will continue until there is substantial rainfall. Australia's weather agency confirmed on Thursday there was no sign of that in coming months.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020.
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