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'Unprecedented National Crisis': Australians Flee to the Water as Fires Consume Coastal Town on Southern Coast in Victoria

"Absolutely devastating."

A mother and her kids are sheltering in their boat on the water near Mallacoota.

A mother and her kids are sheltering in their boat on the water near Mallacoota. (Photo: Nicole Asher/ABC Gippsland/Twitter)

Australians in the southeastern coastal town of Mallacoota are spending New Year's Eve in the water—the only safe place from bushfires raging in the area that have turned the midday sky blood orange and black.

"I'll say it again, unprecedented national crisis," tweeted University of Sydney professor Joanne Arciuli, noting that Mallacoota, in the southeastern state of Victoria, is only one of the areas of the country facing devastating fires.

Pictures and video coming out of Mallacoota paint a stark picture of the consequences of the fires. Images of families in boats in the bay, miles from the flames, are backdropped by hazy smoke in the skies. 

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Australia has endured bushfires around the country since September, and there's no end in sight. As Common Dreams reported on December 21, the fires form a ring around the country. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a proponent of coal burning power plants, has been criticized for his response to the fires. On Christmas Eve, as Common Dreams reported, firefighters in the country complained that the Australian leader was ignoring their requests for emergency pay and support. 

Morrison is scheduled to visit India from January 13-16 to find deals for Australia's coal industry, a decision that is coming under fire as his country burns. 

"Time to ask Scott Morrison how he justifies a coal sales trip to India as the #ClimateEmergency grips Australia?" tweeted Global Greens ambassador Christine Milne.

Australian film critic Matt Brady said on Twitter that the crisis in Mallacoota was laying bare another issue: how Australia has changed for the worst in recent decades. 

"I feel like 30+ years ago, Aussies with boats from would be flocking to help evacuate Mallacoota of their own volition," said Brady. "But Australia is a crueller and more selfish place now and our sense of community and solidarity has been killed off so that doesn't seem to be happening."

"Would love to be proved wrong!" he added.

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