'Very concerned': Number of people missing in Victoria bushfires rises to 28

Olivia Lambert
News Editor

The number of people unaccounted for in the Victorian bushfires has risen to 28, Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed.

Speaking to media on Friday morning, Mr Andrews said he was “very concerned” for their wellbeing.

He also confirmed two people had lost their lives in the East Gippsland fires.

“We have grave fears for the safety and wellbeing of those 28 people who cannot be located,” Mr Andrews told reporters.

“Having said that though, these numbers will move around.”

Earlier it was reported 17 people were missing in the fires, however Mr Andrews said some of those originally not accounted for have since been located.

Almost 30 people are missing in bushfires in Victoria. Source: AAP

“There’s been some other people who we’ve not even been able to necessarily determine as being missing who have never made it onto a list, but have become known to family and friends only very recently, after a period of absence.

“That’s the nature of a very dynamic fire ground.

“But I can confirm today, as of 9.30am, there are 28 people that we cannot locate, and we are very concerned about their wellbeing.”

A state of disaster has been declared in Victoria, with people in the state's worst-hit bushfire regions told to leave as conditions worsen and a second man dies in the blazes.

Mr Andrews said the situation in Mallacoota, where thousands are stranded on a beach, would continue to develop today.

More than 800,000 hectares of bushland has been burnt in the area of East Gippsland. Source: AAP

The military was called in to offer about 4000 victims relief and resources on Thursday.

Mr Andrews told reporters while it was a massive logistical task, the situation was developing as well as it could.

“We’re going to have more and more people out of Mallacoota today,” he said.

‘You must leave’

These state of disaster powers declared in East Gippsland have never been used before and allow authorities to compel people to leave but police won't be arresting those who won't.

"We're not going to be dragging people down the street, forcing them to leave," Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said.

An evacuation order is in place for northeastern communities including Biggara, Tintaldra, Towong, Towong Upper, Walwa, Nariel Valley, Lucyvale, Berringama, Koetong, Shelley and Burrowye.

Mount Buller, Mount Hotham and the Mount Stirling Alpine Resorts are also covered by the order.

"If you can leave, you must leave. That's the only safe thing for you, your family and, indeed, for others who may be called to your assistance," the premier said.

Two people have been confirmed dead in fires in East Gippsland. Source: AAP

"We cannot guarantee your safety."

More than 780,000 hectares have been razed by about 50 fires burning in the state's east and northeast.

Temperatures are expected to creep up across the state on Friday before topping 40C in some areas on Saturday amid high winds.

"There are unprecedented times," Mr Andrews said.

"This is a fire season of firsts."

With AAP

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