Wildfires burning across Australia's two most populous states on Tuesday trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions, destroyed many properties and caused at least two fatalities.
People in the town woke up to thick smoke and pale, orange skies. Record-breaking heat and windy conditions triggered wildfires in New South Wales and Queensland states in September.
The two confirmed deaths raise the toll to at least 12 in Australia's wildfires, which also have razed more than 1,000 homes in the past few months.
The popular celebrations are expected to attract around a million spectators and generate 130 million Australian dollars ($91 million) for the state's economy.
Some of those trapped in the town posted images of blood-red, smoke-filled skies on social media.
Some areas have lost both electricity and phone service, according to local media.
"As 2019 draws to a close, the devastating impact of these awful bushfires continues", Mr Morrison said.
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Mr McPaul, 28, who died when what was described as "a fire tornado" flipped his truck off the ground while he attended a blaze near Albury, in southern NSW.
"There's no way in or out", Mallacoota resident Jason Selmes told CNN after evacuating his home. Residents returning home were urged to boil tap water before drinking it.
Authorities in Victoria told those on the beach to retreat to the water if the fire situation worsened.
It comes as two more people died, five others were missing feared dead and thousands were evacuated to beaches in the state of Victoria.
"We cannot confirm their whereabouts, but as soon as we can bring any further information to you, then, of course, we will do that". The Australian Defence Force has sent assistance to multiple states, including air force aircraft and army personnel.The United States, Canada, and New Zealand have also sent additional firefighters to help.
Earlier, Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said 19 buildings had been destroyed in the farming district of Sarsfield, and 24 in the neighbouring town of Buchan.
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They face a gruelling Christmas schedule with a trip to Wolves on December 27 followed by the visit of Sheffield United two days later.
Local radio journalist Francesca Winterson said she was watching the fire approach the town and her own home while she tried to broadcast emergency warnings amid a powercut.
Bushfires also continued to burn on the outskirts of Sydney, cloaking the harbour city in smoke ahead of a fireworks display planned for New Year's Eve. "From the top of New South Wales right down to the border, then we go into Victoria and the fires there would be as big as Scotland".
New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the extent of the fires made it unsafe for the time being to get to the locations of the missing. "The other person that we are trying to get to, we think that person was trying to defend their property in the early hours of the morning".
A tree burns on a residential property as bushfires hit the area around the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales on December 31, 2019.
A volunteer firefighter in NSW was the latest casualty when a truck he was riding in crashed and rolled over in the high winds. He was an expectant father.
Watch and act warnings have been issued after a band of lightning strikes started about a dozen new fires in Victoria's Alpine region.
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Provincial spokesman Omar Zawak confirmed the attack and said the soldiers were killed by the powerful blast inside the base. They targeted a local militiamen compound in northern Takhar province on Sunday, killing at least 17 Afghan militiamen.