More feared dead and thousands shelter on beaches as Australia’s fires rage

Seven more people were missing feared dead and thousands were evacuated to beaches as Australia's most devastating wildfire season on record worsened on Tuesday.

Two of the missing were in Cobargo, near the south coast in the state of New South Wales (NSW), which was hit by one out-of-control fire which roared into the town, with its main street bearing the impact.

Further south, fires continued to blaze out of control in the state of Victoria, where some 4,000 people were forced to take shelter on the beach in the holiday town of Mallacoota, in the East Gippsland district along the Pacific coast.

Around 4,000 more people were sheltering in community centres in the town.

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Australia bushfires on New Year's Eve
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Australia bushfires on New Year's Eve
In this image made from video, an aerial scene shows fires burning in East Grippsland, Victoria state, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Wildfires burning across Australia's two most-populous states Tuesday trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions, destroyed many properties. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Channel 7, Channel 9 via AP)
En esta imagen tomada de un video, un incendiom forestal arde en Bundoora, en el estado de Victoria, Australia, el lunes, 30 de diciembre del 2019. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Channel 7, Channel 9 vía AP)
A burnt-out residence is seen in Sarsfield, East Gippsland, Victoria, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Australia's military will provide support for the response to Victoria's bushfires, as four people remain missing in the blazes. (James Ross/AAP Images via AP)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 31: General scenes near the the town of Sussex Inlet on December 31, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. More than 1500 firefighters are currently battling more than 100 blazes across the NSW, with more than 30 fires still yet to be contained. There had been calls for the Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks display to be cancelled due to the ongoing bushfires in NSW, however event organisers have decided to continue as planned following approval from commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service Shane Fitzsimmons. (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 31: A Rural Fire Service (RFS) firefighter conducts mopping up near the town of Sussex Inlet on December 31, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. There are a number of dangerous bushfires burning at emergency level across NSW as weather conditions deteriorate with temperatures expected to rise ahead of gusty southerly change. Princes Highway on the NSW South Coast has been closed with motorists told to avoid all non essential travel. Volunteer firefighter Sam McPaul was killed when his truck rolled over in a freak wind event near Jingellic near the NSW-Victorian border on Monday evening. (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 31: A Rural Fire Service (RFS) firefighter conducts mopping up near the town of Sussex Inlet on December 31, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. There are a number of dangerous bushfires burning at emergency level across NSW as weather conditions deteriorate with temperatures expected to rise ahead of gusty southerly change. Princes Highway on the NSW South Coast has been closed with motorists told to avoid all non essential travel. Volunteer firefighter Sam McPaul was killed when his truck rolled over in a freak wind event near Jingellic near the NSW-Victorian border on Monday evening. (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)
Embers from bushfires are fanned by strong winds in the area around the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales on December 31, 2019. - Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia on December 31, as blazes ripped through popular tourist areas leaving no escape by land. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP) (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)
The afternoon sky glows orange from bushfires in the area around the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales on December 31, 2019. - Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia on December 31, as blazes ripped through popular tourist areas leaving no escape by land. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP) (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Firefighters hose down trees as they battle against bushfires around the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales on December 31, 2019. - Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia on December 31, as blazes ripped through popular tourist areas leaving no escape by land. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP) (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)
A tree burns around the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales on December 31, 2019. - Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia on December 31, as blazes ripped through popular tourist areas leaving no escape by land. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP) (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Children play at the showgrounds in the southern New South Wales town of Bega where they are camping after being evacuated from nearby sites affected by bushfires on December 31, 2019. - Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia on December 31, as blazes ripped through popular tourist areas leaving no escape by land. (Photo by SEAN DAVEY / AFP) (Photo by SEAN DAVEY/AFP via Getty Images)
Children wear masks as they play at the showgrounds in the southern New South Wales town of Bega where people are camping after being evacuated from nearby sites affected by bushfires on December 31, 2019. - Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia on December 31, as blazes ripped through popular tourist areas leaving no escape by land. (Photo by SEAN DAVEY / AFP) (Photo by SEAN DAVEY/AFP via Getty Images)
People sit and wait at the showgrounds in the southern New South Wales town of Bega where they are camping after being evacuated from nearby sites affected by bushfires on December 31, 2019. - Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia on December 31, as blazes ripped through popular tourist areas leaving no escape by land. (Photo by SEAN DAVEY / AFP) (Photo by SEAN DAVEY/AFP via Getty Images)
Amy (L) and Ben Spencer sit at the showgrounds in the southern New South Wales town of Bega where they are camping after being evacuated from nearby sites affected by bushfires on December 31, 2019. - Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia on December 31, as blazes ripped through popular tourist areas leaving no escape by land. (Photo by SEAN DAVEY / AFP) (Photo by SEAN DAVEY/AFP via Getty Images)
Children play at the showgrounds in the southern New South Wales town of Bega where they are camping after being evacuated from nearby sites affected by bushfires on December 31, 2019. - Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia on December 31, as blazes ripped through popular tourist areas leaving no escape by land. (Photo by SEAN DAVEY / AFP) (Photo by SEAN DAVEY/AFP via Getty Images)
The main street of the New South Wales town of Bombala is pictured shrouded in smoke from nearby bushfires on December 31, 2019. - Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia on December 31, as blazes ripped through popular tourist areas leaving no escape by land. (Photo by SEAN DAVEY / AFP) (Photo by SEAN DAVEY/AFP via Getty Images)
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People in Mallacoota posted on social media about hearing the roar of the fire, circulating photos showing how, in the words of some, the smoke had turned "the day into night".

Four people were missing in the area, where more than half a million acres of forest have been burnt out and where the intense heat and smoke from fires has been creating localised storm systems.

"Mallacoota is currently under attack," Victoria's state emergency commissioner Andrew Crisp said on Tuesday.

"It is pitch-black, it is quite scary... the community right now is under threat but we will hold our line and they will be saved and protected."

Emergency services officials said it was possible towns in the Gippsland area could be evacuated by sea as the fires, fanned by strong winds, continued.

This photo was taken by a mother – her two primary aged sons are in the boat with her. They are currently sitting on the Mallacoota lake trying to stay safe from the fire, this is their only option and only refuge . Ordinarily at NYE I would share about the wins Mums Who Wine has had, the lessons I have learned and the excitement to come – but this all appears insignificant when I see images like this 😢 Our fellow Aussies are in crisis as bushfires continue to rage and for the most part we are helpless. So as we prepare to come together to celebrate the end of 2019, what has been a tough year for many, let's take the moment to be grateful that we and our families are safe and send prayers and love to those seeking refuge. And of course, hug your little ones a little tighter tonight as you tuck them safely into bed. Thank you to the incredible firefighters and volunteers who are braving these unthinkable conditions, you are true heroes 🙏❤️ 📷 ABC Mallacoota . . . . . . . . . #mallacoota #gippsland #gippslandfires #bushfires #newyearseve2019 #cfa #aussiefirefighters #australiansummer

A post shared by Mums Who Wine (@mumswhowine_au) on

Another person was unaccounted for in the NSW town of Belowra.

As defence force personnel assisted firefighters and volunteers in tackling some of the worst blazes, eight fires were burning at emergency level across NSW, with a similar number ongoing in Victoria, and two more in the island state of Tasmania.

Residents in a handful of NSW coastal towns were also evacuated to the beach.

Australia Wildfires
Fires burn and smoke rises near properties in Bundoora, Victoria (ABC/Channel 7, Channel 9 via AP)

The death toll from more than three months of wildfires in multiple states stood at 10.

Major roads were closed near the south coast of NSW including the country's main national carriageway, the Pacific Highway.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison posted a video address expressing sympathy over the death on Monday of volunteer firefighter Samuel McPaul, 28, who died when what was described as "a fire tornado" flipped his truck off the ground while he attended a blaze near Albury, in southern NSW.

"As 2019 draws to a close, the devastating impact of these terrible bushfires continues," Mr Morrison said.

High fire danger and extreme temperatures – western Sydney hit 45 degrees on Tuesday – have caused the cancellation of several planned New Year's fireworks displays, including in the national capital Canberra.

Sydney's iconic harbour-side fireworks were to go ahead, but with signs displayed of how people could donate money to help those affected by fires.

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