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  1. ITV Report

Thousands told to leave homes as Australian wildfires continue to spread

  • Video report by ITV News Reporter Ivor Bennett

Thousands of Australians have been told to leave their homes and the surrounding area as wildfires continue to spread throughout the country.

Authorities have told residents in East Gippsland, an area in Victoria with a population of more than 46,000, that fires are likely to "grow significantly in size".

In a statement on their website, Victoria emergency services said three fires wereburning in the forest in East Gippsland near Bruthen, Buchan and Bonang, and that people must leave immediately.

Smoke rises from wildfires in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Credit: AP

They added there is likely to be an increased risk of a new fire starting as a result of dry lightning, which could threaten more lives.

Andrew Crisp, the Emergency Management Commissioner, said: “If you’re planning on visiting East Gippsland today or Monday, don’t do it.

"If you’re already visiting East Gippsland, you need to leave the area today.

"It is not possible to provide support and aid to all the visitors currently in the East Gippsland region, and if the Princes Highway is impacted, you may not be able to leave for sometime.

"If you live in East Gippsland, you need to move to safer locations."

A map showing the evacuation area in East Gippsland. Credit: CFA Updates/ Twitter

There is a statewide risk across Victoria, with agencies rating the risk as extreme.

Nine people have been killed across Australia by the wildfires, which have destroyed more than 1,000 homes in the past several weeks.

Sydney’s famous New Year’s Eve fireworks will go ahead despite the country’s wildfire crisis to show the world Australia’s resilience, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said.

Firefighting authorities, however, have refused to rule out the chance of cancelling the display at the last minute.

Doubts have arisen in recent days over whether the world-famous fireworks should go ahead, due both to risks of sparking fires in dry harbour-side nature reserves, and to sensitivities over the plight of those affected by the fires.

It is also feared more than 30 per cent of the koala bear population has been wiped out from Australia due to the wildfires. Credit: AP

It is also feared more than 30% of the koala bear population has been wiped out from Australia due to the wildfires.

  • South Australian cyclist Anna Heusler was cycling with friends in the countryside outside Adelaide on December 27 when she saw a koala and let it drink from her water bottle