Nearly 30 people are missing as catastrophic bushfires continue to tear through Victoria's east amid worsening conditions.
Premier Daniel Andrews says 28 people cannot be accounted for in the state's East Gippsland region, on top of two men confirmed dead.
"We have grave fears for the safety and well-being of those 28 people who cannot be located," Mr Andrews told reporters on Friday, adding the missing were not volunteer or professional firefighters.
The premier said that number would likely change as the bushfire crisis continued to unfold and after some of 17 people listed as missing on Thursday were found.
It comes as an unprecedented state of disaster is declared, with residents in the northeast of the state told to get out before it's too late, as conditions deteriorate.
The declaration, which entails powers introduced after the devastating 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, allows authorities to compel people to leave.
Areas covered by the declaration are the East Gippsland Shire, Mansfield Shire, Wellington Shire, Wangaratta Rural Shire, Towong Shire and Alpine Shire. It also covers Mount Buller, Mount Hotham and the Mount Stirling Alpine Resorts.
About 250,000 text messages have been sent to residents in high-risk areas.
The fire danger has also spread to Victoria's west, with a separate evacuation alert issued on Friday afternoon for Bessiebelle, northwest of Port Fairy.
Temperatures are forecast to creep up on Friday, with parts of Gippsland set to hit 40C on Saturday and areas of the northeast 45C ahead of a gusty southerly expected to move east across the state.
More than 780,000 hectares have already been razed and two people found dead in East Gippsland, including Buchan man Mick Roberts at his home on Wednesday.
A second man's body was later found in the fire zone at a Maramingo Creek property, near Genoa. He is believed to have suffered a medical episode while fighting the fires.
An evacuation alert remains in place for northeastern communities including Biggara, Tintaldra, Towong, Towong Upper, Walwa, Berringama, Burrowye, Koetong, Lucyvale, Nariel Valley and Shelley.
"The strong message from those who didn't leave (last weekend) is that they wish they had left," Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said.
"The fires were of such ferocity and intensity that it was very traumatic and people felt their lives were absolutely at risk.
"You should leave to save your life. If you don't we will be sending out police to make sure you've got the message."
But not everyone can leave, with some communities still stranded.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited East Gippsland on Friday to inspect the damage and meet locals.
The military has started evacuating people from the coastal town of Mallacoota after thousands of residents and tourists were stranded.
About 1000 were set to be evacuated by sea on Friday morning, with more expected to follow.
More than 180 firefighters from the US and Canada will also help exhausted Victorian crews.
"These are unprecedented times," Mr Andrews said.
"We've not had such large-scale fire activity, such a big fire edge, so many going fires, and then get another wave of really challenging weather a week or so later."
Between five and 20mm of rain could fall over Victoria's east on Sunday and Monday, but the Bureau of Meteorology says it is unlikely to do much to stop the fires.
"We may just see a temporary easing of the fire activity. but certainly with some drier weather coming up as you move into the middle of the week, it's unlikely to be long-lasting," senior forecaster Tom Delamotte said.
Australian Associated Press