BATEMANS BAY, Australia/SYDNEY — Almost 30,000 square miles in the most populated area of Australia is covered by fire warnings and evacuation orders as authorities fear bushfires will burn out of control this weekend.
At the summer holiday peak, authorities have advised tens of thousands of vacationers and residents to leave national parks and tourist areas on the south coast of New South Wales, where a weeklong state of emergency has been called.
Victoria declared a state of disaster across areas home to about 100,000 people, with authorities urging people to evacuate before a deterioration expected on Saturday.
The areas covered by the warnings are between Sydney and Melbourne, the nation’s most populous cities.
To the west, in South Australia, a number of fires burned out of control as temperatures topped 105 degrees Fahrenheit across much of the state and strong winds fanned flames.
A death confirmed on Friday takes the state’s toll this week to eight. Two people have died in Victoria, and 28 are unaccounted for.
In Victoria, naval vessels started evacuations of about a quarter of the 4,000 people stranded on a beach in the isolated town of Mallacoota.
With roads blocked, sea transport and some airlifts are the only way out of the stricken town, although heavy smoke prevented flights on Friday.
Police and emergency officials urged tourists to leave the south coast and Snowy Mountains of New South Wales because of dangerous fire conditions, and set a Friday deadline of 10 a.m. to leave Kosciuszko National Park.
Mandatory evacuation orders for residents as well as tourists were issued for areas near Jervis Bay and the cities of Batlow and Tooma.
People in the fire-devastated New South Wales town of Cobargo angrily confronted Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a visit on Thursday, with one shouting that the leader should be “ashamed of himself” and had “left the country to burn.”
This season’s fires have scorched more than 13 million acres of bushland, with 1,365 homes destroyed in New South Wales alone, including 449 this week on the south coast.
Weather officials on Friday rated the danger from fire “very high” to “extreme” in most districts in South Australia, with a similar outlook for New South Wales and Victoria on Saturday.
(Reporting by Jill Gralow and Wayne Cole; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Clarence Fernandez)