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Aussie festival in chaos as extreme fire warning threatens thousands: 'Irresponsible'

Attendees at Pitch Music Festival in Victoria have been told to leave with others requesting refunds as scorching temperatures sweep over the country.

Festivalgoers at a music event in Victoria have expressed their fury after being told to leave, and those on their way to delay their travels, following extreme heat and fire warnings posing a risk across the state.

Heatwave conditions have been forecast for South Australia, Victoria, NSW and Tasmania from Saturday to Monday with parts of Victoria expected to reach up to 39C. Hot, dry and windy conditions are also expected, the Bureau of Meteorology has warned, sending the five-day festival plans into chaos.

Organisers of the Pitch Music Festival, held at Moyston about 220km west of Melbourne, warned attendees on Friday night to "leave tonight or early in the morning" via a post on social media following safety warnings, despite many already settling in for their five-day plans.

"The Country Fire Service advises the fire danger rating is extreme which recommends you reconsider travel through bushfire risk areas and that leaving bushfire risk areas early in the day is your safest option because fires will spread quickly and be extremely dangerous," organisers wrote on Instagram.

"If you are arriving on Saturday we recommend delaying your arrival until further notice. The forecast tells us to expect hot weather each day of the festival. In addition, overnights will also be warm."

Large crowd at Pitch Music Festival in Victoria.
Pitch Music Festival is being held at Moyston, about 220km west of Melbourne, where extreme heat and fire warnings have been issued. Source: Facebook/Pitch Festival

Festival still going ahead despite fire warnings

Despite the risks and a plea to ticket holders to reconsider their need to attend, organisers announced on Saturday that the festival will go ahead and begin from 6pm on Saturday, rather than on Friday as planned.

"We are diligently following the guidance of relevant authorities to prioritise the safety of our community and have a full team of emergency services including medical, police and on site fire response who are on call throughout the event," the festival organisers on Saturday.

'Lack of communication' as Aussies demand refund

About 18,000 people are expected to attend the event where a premium camping ticket sells for $135 and a three-person glamping tent is priced at more than $1500. The sudden interruption has left thousands fuming and demanding a refund.

"Do we have any updates for those wanting a refund? I mean like it’s really not the same event that we all forked out for," one said on the organisers' post. "Very disappointing. Blatantly avoiding refunding people and putting festival attendees in danger," said another.

Weather map of Australia showing extreme temperatures.
Heatwave conditions have been forecast for South Australia, Victoria, NSW and Tasmania from Saturday to Monday. Source: BoM

Others have criticised the event organisers for a lack of communication with thousands left in the dark. One hit out on Instagram claiming the festival had not communicated the situation effectively to festivalgoers.

"My sister is on site and no one has come and talked to anyone. She can't reach thier Insta or website so [the f***k] are you guys doing, she wants to leave but is trapped by tents ffs," one user claimed.

Others agreed the messaging around the event was "confusing" with some left wondering "if we're allowed to go". "Don't come or come — the middle ground is really, really confusing. That's what's making everyone stressed," one told the ABC.

Parents fear for safety of their kids

Meanwhile, concerned parents have reportedly been unable to contact their children due to poor coverage at the site. Others have resorted to driving out to the festival grounds to pick up their kids, the Herald Sun reported.

Some parents have said it's "irresponsible" and "shocking" that the festival has gone ahead. On social media, other parents begged for the festival to be cancelled.

"Cancel it and bring these kids home NOW!!!! You are playing with their lives," one said. "Advise the kids to leave for their own safety!!! This is just a joke!! You are stringing them along," said another.

Record-high temperatures sweeping the state

The bureau warned a severe heatwave sweeping the state's south was likely to be felt across a large area including Melbourne, Ballarat, Horsham, Warrnambool and Bairnsdale.

Melbourne was tipped to reach a top of 39C on Saturday, while temperatures were set to hit 41C at Warrnambool, Torquay and Avalon.A top temperature of 38C was forecast for Melbourne on Sunday and Monday.

The state's central district was slated to reach 41C on Saturday with temperatures of 40C forecast for holiday towns along the Murray River. Southwest Victoria was forecast to record its sixth-highest maximum temperatures on record in some areas, including where the festival is being held.

"We have only seen three consecutive days of above 38C in Melbourne three times during March in the past 100 years," Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Lincoln Trainor said.

"Temperatures will still remain quite hot in northern districts of Victoria until Wednesday and Thursday, when temperatures slowly drop back to the March average."

with NCA Newswire and AAP

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