Tourism Australia has issued a statement regarding raging bushfires as the country’s navy evacuated around 1,000 tourists and residents trapped in a town on the Victoria coast.
Landing vessels took people from the fire-hit town of Mallacootato to two ships – MV Sycamore and the larger HMAS Choules – in an “unprecedented mass relocation of civilians”.
Around 4,000 local people and tourists fled to the beach on Monday night when bushfires encircled the town.
The evacuees will be taken to Western Port, near Melbourne, around 16 hours’ voyage down the coast.
The military evacuated around 60 people by helicopter on Thursday as roads were cut off.
Thousands of people are also fleeing parts of neighbouring New South Wales, where a week-long state of emergency is in force.
Blazes have killed at least 20 people in the two states and dozens remain missing amid record high temperatures.
Tourism Australia said: “Given the widespread international coverage, we are focussed on developing an approach to minimise any impact on tourism, and to protect and build Australia’s reputation as an international tourism destination.”
Phillipa Harrison, managing director of the national tourism organisation, stressed that many areas of the country are unaffected and most tourism businesses are still open.
She said: “Like all Australians our sympathies go out to the families and communities who are impacted by the fires, and our gratitude grows stronger by the day for the front line services facing the fires head on.
“It is more important than ever that we rally around our communities and the tourism sector who may have been impacted.
“We would encourage all travellers coming to Australia to seek the most up to date information prior to departure, and remain informed about changing conditions whilst on the ground.”
The Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology provides overall weather updates for all parts of Australia, including the latest fire warnings: http://www.bom.gov.au/.
Updates are also available from the Rural Fire Service, National Parks and relevant State or Territory emergency services, Harrison pointed out.
“Travellers are also encouraged to speak with local tourism operators and staff at local Visitor Information Centres for advice about local conditions and how best to enjoy their time in Australia,” she added.
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