SYDNEY — A one-week state of emergency was announced on Thursday for the Australian state of New South Wales as fire conditions are expected to worsen in the country’s southeast coast starting Saturday.

Gladys Berejiklian, the state’s premier, said the state of emergency would start on Friday and last seven days, giving extra powers to the Rural Fire Service Commissioner to battle the blazes, including forced evacuations and road closures.

A heatwave rolling across the continent from the west is expected to arrive on the southeast coast Saturday, bringing strong winds and temperatures in the mid 40s (over 110 Fahrenheit), the Bureau of Meteorology forecasts.

Fires have raged across southeastern Australia since October. More than 5 million hectares across the country have been scorched and more than 1,400 homes destroyed.

The national death toll has risen to at least 17 people, according to the Australian Associated Press, with dozens still missing.

In Victoria, there were “significant fears” for 17 people who were missing after massive bushfires in the southeast state, the state’s premier said on Thursday.

While Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said it was possible some of those unaccounted for could be safe, he made clear that authorities were concerned about their welfare, in comments reported by the Australian Associated Press.

An Australian navy ship arrived at the coastal town of Mallacoota in Victoria on Thursday, which has been cut off since New Years Eve, to rescue thousands of people trapped by fires. Some 4,000 people fled to the town’s beach to escape the flames.

The ship, HMAS Choules, was carrying much-needed food, water and medical supplies and could evacuate up to 1,000 people at a time, a defense spokesman said.

The town of around 1,000 residents is a popular holiday spot, which attracts thousands of visitors in summer.

A similar situation had developed at the Caiguna Roadhouse, with around 250 people stranded for four days at the inn near the southern coast due to the closing of the Eyre Highway, which crosses the Nullarbor Plain in the country’s south.

Roadhouse Manager Maureen O’Halloran told the national broadcaster ABC that motorists in trucks, cars and caravans are going to be stuck at least until Monday.

“We are coping pretty well, but the fire service had to chopper in milk and toilet paper because we’d run out and people were getting desperate,” she told the ABC.

Tourists and all nonresidents were told to get out of fire zones in Victoria and neighboring New South Wales ahead of the weekend’s heatwave.

The fire service in New South Wales declared a “tourist leave zone,” stretching 150 miles south of the holiday resort town of Batemans Bay to the border with Victoria.

Long lines of vehicles clogged the roads heading north and west from the evacuation zone Thursday morning. Many were unable to leave as petrol stations ran out of fuel or pumps didn’t work due to power outages.

Police escorted petrol tankers to Batemans Bay, but towns further south were still unable to get enough fuel for all people to leave, New South Wales Transport Minister Andrew Constance told the ABC.

Food and water was also running low in many of the coastal communities which have been cut off from the highway since the fires moved in Monday and Tuesday, the Rural Fire Service said.

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