In an unprecedented naval evacuation of civilians in Australia's history, the first evacuees from the fire-besieged holiday town of Mallacoota in East Gippsland arrived at a Victorian port on the Mornington Peninsula on Saturday morning.
MV Sycamore docked earlier than expected at Hastings about 8am, carrying 58 people, two dogs, one cat and a rabbit fleeing the deadly fires raging in Victoria's east.
More people will be carried to safety on HMAS Choules, which is also on its way to Hastings and expected to dock about 4pm on Saturday.
And in the town of Omeo, army helicopters were lifting residents and hospital patients to safety after fires closed off all possible road exits and gusting winds drove a wall of flames toward the town.
Omeo, Vic. Right now! pic.twitter.com/XWhyDNu2Qh— Nuggy25 (@nuggy25) January 4, 2020
Both ships will resupply and head back to Mallacoota to continue the evacuation of others still stranded on the foreshore and in caravan parks as thick smoke continues to blanket the eastern part of Victoria.
Commissioner Crisp said doctors and paramedics were on the ground to treat people, saying helicopters were on standby to evacuate more people when the smoke clears.