Australian fires: 'Families sheltered under blankets for 14 hours' during Mallacoota emergency

Australian Community Media journalist Rachel Mounsey is one of the 1000 or so permanent residents of Mallacoota.

She, along with her family and thousands of holidaymakers, could do nothing but seek shelter as an inferno bore down on them.

Firefighters at Mallacoota. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Firefighters at Mallacoota. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

The out of control fire started on Sunday at Wingan River, about 40km west of Mallacoota.

It quickly leapt to emergency status, reaching the coast before turning east in the windy conditions.

At the time of writing it has burnt out approximately 85,000ha and countless homes and buildings.

In the early hours of New Year's Eve, Rachel was holed up in the town hall with hundreds of others, while across the water, she estimated 1000 or more people had to shelter under blankets all night as a "fireball" raced into town.

Rachel said when the emergency coordinator in town - aptly named Sooty - told them Tuesday lunchtime that the worst had passed, she and many others broke into applause and tears.

"He said there's still a lot of work to do though.

Firefighters at Mallacoota. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Firefighters at Mallacoota. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

"The firies are amazing. We've all been crying at the effort they're putting in. I can't believe they fought that fireball."

While the danger is still present and the fire is still under an Emergency warning level, Rachel says there is a sense of calm in the hall - as much as there can be for now.

"We're allowed out of the hall now, but only with masks on. It's been a wild ride, I think we're all in a state of shock."

East Gippsland Emergency. Snapshot of Vic Emergency website as at 4.20pm Tuesday, December 31.

East Gippsland Emergency. Snapshot of Vic Emergency website as at 4.20pm Tuesday, December 31.

The damage is sure to be enormous.

"People here are now finding out their houses have burnt down, part of the school got burnt and they're not sure of the state of the roads," Rachel said.

"There were a lot of gas bottle explosions through the night too.

"One of my girlfriends was among those who took shelter on the wharf and had to hide under a blanket with her kids for 14 hours! Some were even leaving by boat.

"My street went up in flames, but our house is fine, some of the others, too. The ember attack was insane. It was really touch and go for a lot of people. Very very frightening.

"It's predicted to be 40C again on Saturday so we'll be here for a while yet."

This story 'Families sheltered under blankets for 14 hours' during Mallacoota emergency first appeared on Magnet.