Up to 30 people missing in Victorian bushfires_1


Emergency services hold grave concerns for nearly 30 people as catastrophic bushfires continue to tear through Victoria's east.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said 28 people were unaccounted for on top of two people confirmed dead from the East Gippsland fires on New Year's Eve.

"I can confirm today, as at 9.30, there are 28 people that we cannot locate, and we are very concerned about their wellbeing.

"I am saddened to have to update you that the total number of people who cannot be accounted for has now grown to 28. It remains the case that two people can be confirmed as having lost their lives.

"We have grave fears for the safety and wellbeing of those 28 people who cannot be located. Having said that, though, these numbers will move around.

Mr Andrew said a number of people who were part of the 17 residents in remote areas unaccounted for earlier in the week were located on Thursday.

"A number of people who were part of the original 17 were located yesterday.

He said there were other residents who emergency services have not yet been able to classify as "missing" who never made it onto a list, "but have become known to family and friends only very recently, after a period of absence".

"These numbers will move around. That's the nature of a very dynamic
fire ground.

It comes after Mr Andrews declared a state of disaster for East Gippsland on Thursday night.

These powers have never been used before and allow authorities to compel people to leave.

Residents in northeastern communities including Biggara, Tintaldra, Towong, Towong Upper, Walwa, Nariel Valley, Lucyvale, Berringama,Koetong, Shelley and Burrowye are being ordered to get out.

"If you can leave, you must leave. That's the only safe thing for you, your family and, indeed, for others who may be called to your assistance," the premier told reporters on Friday.

"We cannot guarantee your safety."

More than 780,000 hectares have been razed by about 50 fires burning in the state's east and northeast.

-with AAP