There are grave concerns for the safety of 17 people unaccounted for after Victoria's deadly East Gippsland bushfires.
Premier Daniel Andrews addressed the media on Thursday revealing the staggering figure which has rocketed from four on Wednesday.
"That's at least 17 people whose whereabouts cannot be accounted for," Mr Andrews told reporters at Bairnsdale.
“We hold very significant fears for the welfare of anybody who is missing at this time.”
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Grainger said at this stage authorities were unable to declare where the people were missing.
The death of Buchan man Mick Roberts was also confirmed. His body was found inside his home.
“That is a terrible tragedy in itself,” Mr Grainger said.
Victorian authorities said the ongoing situation is “quite unprecedented for this state” during a press conference on Thursday.
Rescue of 4000 stranded underway ahead of dangerous weather conditions
The military has arrived to get about 4000 victims relief, resources and off the beach at Mallacoota ahead of extreme weather conditions on Saturday.
"We think around 3000 tourists and 1000 locals are there. Not all of those will want to leave, not all can get on the vessel at one time," Mr Andrews told ABC Gippsland on Thursday.
So proud of Victoria’s fire fighters in Gippsland and the North East many have been working to protect our community whilst there own property’s are at risk. Plume Photo Dale Appleton. @DELWP_Vic @EMV_news pic.twitter.com/dTzq3h3QUv
— Chris Hardman (@FFMVic_Chief) January 1, 2020
"Then there's a whole lot of planning going on about where that vessel will go, it will be a long trip, potentially a 10 or 12-hour trip to take them to another port and then to provide them with all the support they will need."
Firefighter shift changes are also happening by helicopter in a Victoria-first and police shipped in supplies to Mallacoota on New Year’s Day too.
A boil water notice for Mallacoota has been lifted, but people are asked to restrict to essential use only.
Supplies including satellite phones will be dropped at communities such as Cann River on Thursday.
The deadly fires have burnt through more than 766,000 hectares across Victoria.
Bushfires continue to burn
As at 1pm (AEST) on Thursday, there are 47 fires going statewide, mostly in East Gippsland.
Another fire straddling the NSW-Victoria border at Corryong is also threatening lives.
Firefighters will be helped on Thursday by moderate conditions, with temperatures in East Gippsland in the low to mid 20s expected to be paired with fairly light winds of up to 20 km/h.
As of Thursday morning, all fires remained at a watch and act level.
The mercury is forecast to creep up in the region on Friday, before reaching the 40s on Saturday, when the heat, hot winds and possible thunderstorms will increase the risk of new fires.
So far, confirmed property losses are 24 structures at Buchan, 19 at Sarsfield, 10 at Mallacoota and up to 15 at Cudgewa.
About 24 remote communities have lost power and phone coverage.
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