Thousands of Australians trapped as fires burn out of control, with death toll hitting 13

13 people now confirmed dead in ongoing firestorms across eastern Australia, with thousands trapped on waterfront by out of control blaze.

David Rosenberg ,

Firefighters (archive)
Firefighters (archive)

Thousands of people were trapped on the waterfront of a southeastern Australian town Tuesday, as wildfires continued to devastate much of eastern Australia.

Some four thousand people were forced to flee their homes in Mallacoota, in Victoria, Australia on Tuesday and seek refuge by the beach, camping out on wharves in what locals described as a “terrifying experience”, the BBC reported.

"It should have been daylight but it was black like midnight and we could hear the fire roaring," said David Jeffrey. "We were all terrified for our lives,” adding that locals had been prepared to jump into the water if the fire came too close.

Others took to boats to escape the blaze.

Victoria's emergency commissioner Andrew Crisp said there were "4,000 people on the beach" seeking refuge from the encroaching fire.

"It is pitch-black, it is quite scary... the community right now is under threat but we will hold our line and they will be saved and protected."

While there was massive property damage in Mallacoota and Corryong, a change in the direction of the wind left much of the towns spared.

The death toll in eastern Australia’s fires hit 13 on Tuesday, after a father and son were found dead in Corbargo in New South Wales, with four more unaccounted for.

The fires, which have raged across eastern Australia since September, have destroyed more than 2,500 buildings and scorched more than 18,750 square miles. Fueled by extreme heat, the fires have spread especially rapidly due to a record drought in Australia.