Updated Jan 1, 2020

Australia deploys military as thousands stranded by wildfires

An Australian firefighter hosing down trees and flying embers in an effort to secure nearby houses from bushfires near the town of Nowra in New South Wales. Photo: Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images

Australia's wildfires have claimed another five lives, several people are missing and thousands of people have continued to shelter from fires on beaches at popular tourist spots in two states, authorities say.

The latest: The Australian Defense Force has deployed extra personnel to the states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia to assist in firefighting efforts, the government confirmed in a statement. The government said it's also sending aid fire-ravaged regions via military ships and aircraft.

  • The bodies of three more people were found in fires on New South Wales' South Coast, the NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner told a news conference Wednesday afternoon local time.
  • A man's body was found inside a burnt-out car off a major highway on the South Coast, state police said hours earlier before that announcement.
  • In Victoria, a 67-year-old man was found dead in his East Gippsland home, the Herald Sun reports.

Evacuations: People in Batemans Bay, NSW, have evacuated to the beach to escape bushfires, per 9 News. The town of nearly 16,000 people on the state's south coast attracts some 2 million visitors a year.

  • 4,000 people fled to the beach at the East Gippsland town of Mallacoota in Victoria after evacuating there, fire authorities say.

The victims: The death toll from the wildfires now stands at 17 following several days of intense conditions amid searing heat in Australia's southeast.

The big picture: The Australian Defense Force has been assisting with firefighting efforts in the states of New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia since Nov. 8, the government says.

  • Australia's wildfires are so intense, smoke from the blazes has traveled over 1,200 miles to blanket parts of New Zealand's South Island.

Go deeper:

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Australia fires: Race to evacuate thousands before conditions worsen

Cars line up to leave the town of Batemans Bay in New South Wales. Photo: Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images

Australian authorities are racing to evacuate thousands of people stranded in the states of New South Wales and Victoria before high temperatures and strong winds return — with the military helping people escape the deadly wildfires by air and sea.

The latest: Victoria's Premier Dan Andrews declared a state of disaster for six local government areas and the Alpine Resorts overnight — the first time ever in the state. NSW is declaring a seven-day state of emergency, effective Friday morning (local time), state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said. It's NSW's third state of emergency during this bushfire season.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 2, 2020

Australia's deadly fires: What you need to know

The Australian flag flies under red skies from fires on Jan. 4 in Bruthen, Victoria. Photos: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

The Orroral Valley fire has burned through nearly 25% of the district that's home to Australia's capital, News.com.au reports, after ACT Emergency Controller Georgeina Whelan said the fire was rapidly growing into the south east on Saturday.

The latest: The Orroral fire grew from 81,544 acres to at least 129,073 acres on Saturday, based on Whelan's initial statement, and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr's following estimate. Whelan said the Orroral fire is expected to move "well into" New South Wales, which creates potential for it to reach and merge with other bushfires in the area.

Australia wildfires: NSW police arrest 24 arson suspects

A firefighter in the Australian state of New South Wales. Photo: Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images

As firefighters battle wildfires across Australia, police in New South Wales have arrested dozens of people for offenses related to fires, including 24 for deliberately lighting fires and three for looting fire-ravaged communities.

The big picture: NSW police said in a statement Monday that officers have taken legal action against 183 people for fire-related offenses since Nov. 8, including for "allegedly discarding a lighted cigarette or match on land."

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020