Australia bushfires: 1000 evacuated from Mallacoota, thousands more still wait

For the first time in Australia's history, a state of disaster has been declared in large parts of Victoria, sending the strongest message to people in critical areas that they need to get out. 

Authorities there have pleaded with the public, saying they can't guarantee their safety. 

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Australians continue to evacuate the New South Wales (NSW) coast, with predictions unprecedented fires will continue to rage across the state on Saturday. 

In NSW, more than 140 fires continue to burn, while more than 40 blazes are burning across Victoria. 

Holidaymakers in Mallacoota, in the East Gippsland region of Victoria, were shipped out of the fire-ravaged beach town by the navy, after being stranded since New Year's Eve.

"[I] haven't been able to process it... not yet," evacuee Natalie Morrisey said.

"We were all down at the foreshore and it's something that I want to forget."

On Thursday night, at an emotional town hall meeting, residents were briefed on the rescue mission. 

People clamoured to see if their names were on the list for the first trip out.

It's the largest evacuation the Australian Defence Force has carried out in recent history, and the operation ran like clockwork, with small groups leaving every half hour.

"What's been outstanding here is the amount of community involvement," said Commander Scott Houlihan of the Royal Australian Navy.

"The local community has made what would normally be a complex task a lot easier than normal."

One thousand passengers escaped on Friday, but there are still thousands waiting and authorities warn they may be trapped on Mallacoota Beach for weeks.

It's unclear how long the mission will take and rations are scarce.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has declared a state of disaster and is urging people 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. We cannot guarantee your safety."

Two people have now been confirmed dead in Victoria, with the number of missing climbing daily.

"There are 28 people that we cannot locate and we are very concerned about their wellbeing," Andrews said.

At least 20 people are believed to have been killed in the fires across the country.

Fears are now mounting as the weather threatens to wreck fresh havoc - it's believed dry thunderstorms and potential lightning strikes could ignite new blazes in the area.

Experts say what's needed is about five continuous days of rain, but the forecast offers no such respite. Meteorologists say a few showers are forecast and they won't be enough.

"We need a lot of rain, over quite a long period of time and we're just not going to see that for a couple of weeks, even months to come," said Jonathan How, of the Bureau of Meteorology.

So while towns like Mallacoota haven't seen the end of the hellish fires, some families are getting away, and are relieved to be leaving it all behind them.

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