Thousands of Australian residents had to take refuge on a beach as wildfires raged

(CNN) Australians are facing a terrifying start to the new year, as bushfires rip through popular tourist spots on the country’s southeast coast, forcing thousands of people to take refuge on nearby beaches.

Idyllic coastal towns packed with tourists planning to ring in 2020 were cast in apocalyptic red on Tuesday, as smoke blotted out the sun.

In the town of Mallacoota, which lies on the easternmost edge of the state of Victoria and is a well-known family camping spot, around 4,000 people fled to beaches, authorities said.

“There’s no way in or out,” Mallacoota resident Jason Selmes told CNN after evacuating his home.

Another tourist, Ida Dempsey and her family from Melbourne, fled to their boat which was moored about 200 meters (656 feet) from the shore.

Firefighters organize their crews prior to working on controlled back burns in Sydney on November 14.

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