Victoria has declared a state of disaster and asked for the Prime Minister to send in the Australian Defence Force to set up safe zones including tents and emergency housing for hundreds of bushfire-affected evacuees.
Announcing unprecedented powers in an 11pm press conference, Premier Daniel Andrews urged thousands of tourists and residents to leave regions at risk ahead of catastrophic weather at the weekend.
"If you can leave, then you must leave. Your safety cannot be guaranteed," Premier Dan Andrews said.
In a statement last night, the Premier said he was satisfied there is "an emergency that constitutes or is likely to constitute, a significant or widespread danger to life or property in nine shires across the state.
The shires include: East Gippsland, Mansfield, Wellington, Wangaratta, Towong, Alpine, Mount Buller, Mount Hotham, and Mount Stirling Alpine Resorts.
The decision to declare a state of disaster follows similar moves in NSW where tourists and residents are being urged to leave areas right along the south coast, from the Victorian border to Jervis Bay and the Snowy mountains.
Conditions will be worse than initially expected. The Victoria Government has declared a State of Disaster. This gives authorities the ability to compel/force evacuations and control/make use of a person’s property. This is not good. #vicfires #gippsnews pic.twitter.com/BpEHyoGRX3— Tyson Whelan (@tyson_whelan) January 2, 2020
"From Bairnsdale to Queensland, the whole eastern seaboard has either gone or is going to go," the CFA spokesman said.
The Lakes Entrance police chief then told the crowd of 500 residents, "Get a bit of fuel, charge your phone. If you don't live here, please consider leaving.
"I've already spoken to my family, they're going West.
"I'm pretty sure I've made myself clear."