VICTORIA-Australian military aircraft and vessels will be deployed to help emergency services in the fire-ravaged states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria.

Thousands of people fled to beaches in the south-eastern states on Tuesday as emergency-level fires spread.

In Mallacoota, Victoria, around 4,000 people sought shelter on the coast. Two more people have been confirmed dead in NSW, bringing the fire-linked death toll to 12. Authorities say four people are missing in Victoria and another in NSW. “We’ve got literally hundreds, thousands of people up and down the coast, taking refuge on the beaches,” said Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service. Mr Fitzsimmons said it was “the worst fire season we have experienced here in NSW”.

The Australian Defence Force will send Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and navy vessels to Victoria and NSW, the two worst-affected regions.

The military is expected to provide humanitarian assistance and carry out evacuations if needed in the coming days. The US and Canada have also been asked to provide “specialist aviation resources” to help the emergency effort.

BLUB- InMallacoota, Victoria, around 4,000 people sought shelter on the coast