'Unprecedented risk': Thousands ordered to evacuate in Victoria, as two found dead

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.

The man's body was found at a property at Maramingo Creek, near Genoa, by family on Wednesday.

"It is believed the man suffered a medical episode while fighting the fires," Victoria police said in a statement.

It follows family of Buchan man Mick Roberts finding his body at his home also on Wednesday.

On Thursday, as forecast conditions for the coming days deteriorated, Premier Daniel Andrews declared a state of disaster and told people they should get out of East Gippsland and the state's northeast immediately.

He also confirmed 28 people were unaccounted for in Victoria.

Picture taken on Thursday, January 2, 2020, shows smoke billowing from a fire burning at East Gippsland, Victoria.
A supplied image obtained on Thursday, January 2, 2020, shows smoke billowing from a fire burning at East Gippsland, Victoria. Source: AAP Image/DELWP Gippsland

"If you can leave, then you must leave. We face unprecedented risk to life and property in coming days," he told reporters in the late-night conference.

"If you don't, we simply cannot guarantee your safety."

The declaration entails powers introduced in the aftermath of devastating 2009 Black Saturday blazes which have never been used before, including compelling people to evacuate.

Areas covered by the declaration, which has been made for seven days, are East Gippsland Shire, Mansfield Shire, Wellington Shire, Wangaratta Rural Shire, Towong Shire and Alpine Shire.

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

More than 50 fires are raging across the state with the worst burning predominantly in East Gippsland, the northeast and the alpine region.

Residents of those areas have been told they should leave, with temperatures set to creep up on Friday before exceeding 40C in some areas on Saturday as winds pick up.

Picture of the bushland and smoke from the East Gippsland region.
More than 800,000 hectares of bushland has been burnt in the East Gippsland region. Source: AAP Image/DELWP Gippsland

Authorities have declared a total fire ban on Friday across East Gippsland and the Wimmera, North East and South West regions.

An evacuation alert was issued for Biggara, Tintaldra, Towong, Towong Upper, Walwa and surrounding communities on Friday morning.

The fire that has been burning there, straddling the border with NSW has burnt more than 121,600 hectares.

Emergency Management Commissioner for Victoria Andrew Crisp said while the disaster declaration allows authorities to compel people to leave, they won't be arresting anyone who stays.

"This is a large area, there is a lot of door-knocking that has already happened," he told ABC News on Friday.

"Victoria Police, working with others, will go around and, no, we're not going to be arresting people. We just don't have the resources to do that."

He said the threat is not just from existing fires, but new ones starting on Friday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews speaks to the media during a press conference in Melbourne, Thursday, January 2, 2020, where he declared a state of disaster for six governments
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews declared a state of disaster for six local government areas and three alpine resorts confronted by fires. Source: AAP Image/Alex Murray

"As we saw with Mallacoota, that wasn't one of our existing fires and it quickly blocked the highway," he said.

"This is your opportunity to get out."

The military has been providing relief and resources for fire victims across East Gippsland and will help evacuate about 1000 people from Mallacoota from Friday morning.

A group of 39 firefighters and two liaison officers from the United States also arrived on Thursday to help respond to the Victorian situation.

Another 71 firefighters, 61 from the US and another 10 from Canada, are expected to arrive next week.

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