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January 2, 2020 - Thousands of tourists fled Australia’s wildfire-ravaged eastern coast Thursday ahead of worsening conditions as the military started to evacuate people trapped on the shore further south.
Authorities said 381 homes had been destroyed on the New South Wales southern coast this week and at least eight people have died this week in the state and neighbouring Victoria, Australia’s two most-populous states, where more than 200 fires are currently burning.
Fires have also been burning in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
The early and devastating start to Australia’s summer wildfires has led authorities to rate this season the worst on record. About 5 million hectares of land have burned, at least 17 people have been killed and more than 1,400 homes have been destroyed.
New South Wales authorities on Thursday morning ordered tourists to leave a 250km zone along the picturesque south coast. State Transport Minister Andrew Constance said it is the “largest mass relocation of people out of the region that we've ever seen.”
New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian declared a seven-day state of emergency starting Friday, which grants the New South Wales Rural Fire Service commissioner more control and power.