This handout photo released by the Royal Australian Navy shows people being evacuated from Mallacoota. AFP
A dangerous fire flared up in southeastern Australia on Sunday even as cooler conditions elsewhere allowed authorities to begin assessing the damage from heatwave-spurred blazes that swept through two states on Saturday.
Officials told residents and others in the New South Wales (NSW) state town of Eden to leave immediately and head north if they did not have a bushfire response plan.
"If your plan is to leave, or you are not prepared, leave towards Merimbula or Pambula," the Rural Fire Service said in an alert.
Tens of thousands of homes in both NSW and Victoria states were without power on Sunday as a large-scale military and police effort continued to provide supplies and evacuate thousands of people who have been trapped for days in coastal towns by the fires.
Initial estimates put damaged or destroyed properties in the hundreds, but authorities said the mass evacuations by residents of at-risk areas appear to have prevented major loss of life. Twenty-four people have been killed since the start of this year's wildfire season.
Sunday's cooler temperatures and light rain forecast in some coastal areas in coming days could bring some relief, but officials said that would not be enough to bring the almost 200 fires still burning under control.
Fire officials said the next major flashpoint would come later in the week, but it was too early to gauge the likely severity of the threat.
"The weather activity we're seeing, the extent and spread of the fires, the speed at which they're going, the way in which they are attacking communities who have never ever seen fire before is unprecedented," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Thousands of people have been evacuated from coastal towns at the peak of the summer holiday season, in one of the biggest coordinated operations since the evacuation of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy flattened the northern city in 1974.
Australia has been battling blazes across much of its east coast for months, with experts saying climate change has been a major factor in a three-year drought that has left much of the country's bushland tinder-dry and susceptible to fires.
Catastrophic fires have killed three people and razed more than 150 homes since Friday, but cooler weather overnight provided a welcome reprieve for firefighters and residents.
Residents fled their homes as the so-called Tick Fire scorched over 4,000 acres (1,618 hectares) and was only ten percent contained by Friday evening.
The few who stayed behind in Towamba to fight spot flames and stop embers from setting their homes alight gathered on Saturday in the village hall, where supplies had been prepared and someone's vintage 1932 Chevrolet parked for safety.
Police in the western province of Makkah said the attacker was a Saudi, but it did not give the nationality of the guard, who they said had sustained minor injuries.
Christian Bolok, who was in his mid-30s, was trying to grab a rooster when one of its gaffs — small steel blades attached to a rooster's legs — cut a gaping wound on his left leg and hit his femoral artery, provincial Governor Edwin Ongchuan said.
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