The Australian navy has begun evacuating people trapped in the fire-ravaged town of Mallacoota on the Victoria coast.
Two ships, HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore, will pick up about 1,000 people, MP Darren Chester said.
Mr Chester called it an “unprecedented mass relocation”. Conditions were “smoky but fine”, he added.
Some 4,000 residents and tourists fled to the beach on Monday night, when racing bushfires encircled the town.
The military evacuated around 60 people by air last night.
By Thursday night, 963 had signed up for Friday’s naval evacuations, with a few more doing so this morning, Commander Scott Houlihan said.
The evacuees will sail to Port Welshpool – a 16-hour voyage down the Victoria coast.
Meanwhile Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison cut short his visit in the southeastern town of Cobargo on Thursday after angry residents accused him of insufficient action in dealing with the wildfires which have ravaged the small New South Wales (NSW) town.
More than five million hectares (12.35 million acres) across Australia have been scorched by bushfires and more than 1,400 homes have been destroyed.
The death toll has risen to at least 17 people and dozens more are still missing.