Tag: Batemans Bay

NSW Minister tears into Red Cross for sitting on bushfire donations while victims suffer

Batemans Bay 2536

At an emotional press conference in Batemans Bay, Member for Bega Andrew Constance came out swinging against the Red Cross, Salvation Army and St Vincent De Paul for taking too long to distribute money.

Key points:

  • Andrew Constance said money needs to get to people who are “on their knees”.
  • Australian Red Cross has allocated $30 million of the $95 million donated so far
  • Mr Constance challenges charity bosses to come and see the bushfire devastation

“The money is needed now, not sitting in a Red Cross bank account earning interest so they can map out their next three years and do their marketing,” Mr Constance said.

“We need a very real change, very quickly so that the money can get to those who need it most … people are on their knees and we can’t have a drip-feed.”

The Australian Red Cross has received $95 million to date and on Wednesday announced they have allocated $30 million to victims.

A spokesperson said the organisation has paid out 559 grants but has 1,492 open applications.

St Vincent De Paul has raised $12.5 million and spent close to $1.1 million through financial packages for eligible households.

Since the Salvation Army’s bushfire appeal began in November, $43 million has been pledged and $11 million has been received.

From September to now, $7.6 million worth of goods and cash relief has been distributed.


Areas of the South Coast were completely wiped out by bushfires. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Over the last two months, people all over the world have donated generously to charity appeals, the Rural Fire Service (RFS), Celeste Barber’s Facebook fundraiser and animal rescue organisations like the RSPCA.

Mr Constance, the NSW Minister for Transport and Roads, said it was “gutting” to learn only a third of the money donated to the Red Cross has been distributed when there are people who cannot afford the basics.

He said he had met people who are so traumatised they cannot even leave their properties to register for relief.


A group gathers at a burnt out property near Nerrigundah. (Supplied: Facebook)

The Minister, who has admitted he will need trauma counselling, issued a challenge to the managing directors of the three charities to come and see how people are living.

“Meet me in Batemans Bay at 8.00am on Saturday and I’ll drive you the 300 kilometres of devastation on the far south coast.

“I’ll show you the people, you can look them in their eyes and you can see their despair and the destruction that this firebomb brought to our region.

“They better turn up, they better have the guts to show up and be with me … I’ll show them communities which haven’t been on the map, like Kiah, like Nerrigundah, like the back of Bemboka, like Cooma.”

The CEOs of St Vincent De Paul NSW and Canberra, Jack De Groot and Barnie van Wyk, have accepted Mr Constance’s invitation.

The charity said over the past three days Mr van Wyk has overseen the distribution of $200,000 in financial relief to bushfire-affected locals on the south coast.

Over the new year period, areas of the south coast were completely wiped out by bushfires, with devastating losses in Batemans Bay, Conjola Park, Conjola, Cobargo and Mogo.

‘Keen to get the money out’: Red Cross

Red Cross director of Australian services Noel Clement said there was an absolute commitment to getting money in victim’s pockets.

“We are keen to get the money out but we also need to make sure it’s getting where it’s needed,” he said.

Mr Clements admitted some people were waiting weeks for relief money as there were challenges in proving where they lived after losing everything.

“We must manage the money so we aren’t scammed … we want to make sure we are protecting donor’s funds,” he said.

He emphasised that recovery is a “long-term process” and it will take six months for some people to make claims or decide whether to rebuild.


A Red Cross worker with a woman in a razed home. (Supplied: Red Cross Australia)

In a statement, the Red Cross said chief executive Judy Slatyer had been on the South Coast last week meeting with residents and had made “several attempts” to contact Mr Constance.

A spokesperson for the Salvation Army said their emergency relief was being distributed at evacuation and relief centres in bushfire zones.

“We understand relief can never happen fast enough for people in these traumatic circumstances. We are working as fast as we can,” they said.

How to protect yourself from scams:

  • Do not donate via fundraising pages that do not verify the legitimacy of the fundraiser
  • Be careful about crowdfunding requests as these may be fake and also come from scammers
  • Check the terms and conditions of funding platforms and ensure you are dealing with official organisations
  • Check a charity is registered by searching the Australia Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Charity Register

Former emergency service commissioner Peter Dunn is a Conjola local helping to lead the community’s recovery efforts and said donations have been “overwhelming” but long-term management was vital.

“I saw this in the Canberra [bushfires] in 2003 … there is enormous generosity when people are seeing images and hearing the stories on the media,” he said.

“But after three-to-six months, other events take over and they catch the public’s imagination and naturally, the donation flow starts to diminish.”

He said this would be around this time when victims began to rebuild.

During the first few months, homes need to be inspected, insurance claims finalised and asbestos cleared from the land, he said.

“But of course by then the focus of the public has gone elsewhere,” Mr Dunn said.

How much has been donated?RecipientAmountCharitiesRed Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery$95mSalvation Army Disaster Appeal$44mVinnies NSW Bushfire Appeals in NSW, Qld, ACT, SA and Victoria$11.5mFoundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (Disaster Resilience & Recovery Fund)$4mGippsland Emergency Relief Fund$3.2mState government and local council appealsVictorian Bushfire Appeal$23.3mSA Bushfire Appeal$4mKangaroo Island Mayoral Relief and Recovery Bushfire Fund$2mLocal fire services and brigadesNew South Wales Rural Fire Service$51mVictoria’s Country Fire Authority$1.7mSouth Australia’s Country Fire Service Foundation $1mAnimal welfare organisationsWildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) Emergency Fund$11mWildlife Victoria Bushfire Appeal$170KRSPCA appeals nationally$6.2mOrganisations donating goods and servicesFoodbank Natural Disaster Relief$2mGIVIT – 20,000 items distributed to fire affected communities in NSW and QLD$2.9mTotal money donated (at January 22)$263mGovernment contributionsCommonwealth$2bnNSW (over two years to rebuild infrastructure incl. roads, schools)$1bnVictoria (part of joint funding with the Commonwealth)$86m

External Link:

ABC embed: Tell us your bushfire questions

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

The NSW Premier says you have to leave the South Coast — here’s what you need to know

North Batemans Bay 2536

As authorities race to prepare for horror bushfire conditions along the NSW South Coast on Saturday, the message being sent to tourists stranded in the area since New Year’s Eve is clear: get out now.

Key points:

  • Fuel shortages have caused delays, but more is being shipped in to help people get on the road
  • People planning to head north from Batemans Bay are being urged to delay their departure, due to road closures
  • Follow NSW Live Traffic for the latest road updates

A “tourist leave zone” has been designated from Batemans Bay down to the Victorian Border, and a state of emergency will be in force from tomorrow.

“We don’t take these decisions lightly but we also want to make sure we’re taking every single precaution to be prepared for what could be a horrible day on Saturday,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, urging anybody who could leave the area to do so as soon as possible.

But leaving a disaster zone requires patience, care and awareness.

Here’s what you need to know:

Know where you’re going

Escape routes depend on where you are, and you can monitor the latest information at the NSW Live Traffic website.

External Link:

NSW RFS tweet: Tourist leave zone

As has been the case for weeks, the Kings Highway, which connects Batemans Bay to Canberra, remains closed.

No matter your route, authorities have emphasised the need for safe driving on the roads.

Video: People passing through Bega stop to fuel up for the drive away from the fire threat.

(ABC News)

Find petrol, or wait for supplies

Before making the trip, make sure you have enough fuel.

Dwindling supplies have been reported in some parts of the area, including at Tarthra and Bega, which at one point ran out of diesel fuel.

You may not be able to stop along the way to fill up.

Even when there is fuel in stock, power outages have left some petrol stations unable to sell fuel.

Listen to ABC South East NSWAround Batemans Bay, Moruya and Bega, you can tune in to 103.5FM or listen online here.

Massive queues have been spotted outside some service stations, but authorities are urging patience.

NSW Member for Bega Andrew Constance said supplies were being brought in to ensure more people could get away.

“It’s the largest relocation out of the region ever,” he said.

“Fuel is coming into the region, which is great.

“More fuel will come in now the roads are open. Get stocked up in preparation for what is going to be another terrible day on Saturday.”

External Link:

Jade MacMillan tweet: "Traffic jams in Moruya as cars line up for petrol"

Murrays Buses, which usually runs daily services between Canberra and Batemans Bay, and Narooma, has cancelled the service until January 23.

Drive carefully

The roads are busy with traffic, and thick smoke means conditions could be difficult.

Evacuees are being urged to take care on the roads as they make the journey to safety.

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and the evacuations.

Use your headlights and do not rush.

If you are concerned about fire activity on your journey you can monitor the NSW Fires Near Me page, if you are not driving and it’s safe to do so.

More bushfire coverage:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

NSW Premier declares state of emergency ahead of ‘horrible’ fire conditions


NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has declared a seven-day state of emergency starting at 9:00am on Friday due to the ongoing bushfire crisis.

Key points:

  • Seven-day state of emergency declared for NSW as bushfire conditions worsen
  • Fire conditions on Saturday are expected to be worse than New Year’s Eve
  • Holidaymakers have been urged to leave the South Coast ahead of Saturday

It will mean forced evacuations and road closures for people in bushfire zones ahead of Saturday’s forecast “horrible” fire conditions.

NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said Saturday was likely to bring conditions more dangerous than New Year’s Eve, when bushfires left seven dead and thousands in peril.

“There’ll be real challenges and very real risks associated with what’s being forecast and predicted for fire spread under the sorts of weather conditions we’re expecting as we head into Saturday,” he said.

“The conditions on Saturday are likely to be worse than New Year’s Eve and a lot of those areas in the south-east quadrant of the state have the potential to be impacted — and impacted very heavily.”


In Batemans Bay, the beach was the only option for many fleeing the bushfire ravaging the South Coast. (Twitter: Alastairprior)

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and the evacuations.

A “tourist leave zone” has been declared for a 14,000-square-kilometre area between Nowra and the edge of Victoria’s northern border.

The NSW RFS initially declared a leave zone between Batemans Bay down to the border, but extended that zone to the area between Nowra and Ulladulla late on Thursday.

It is the “largest mass relocation of people out of the region that we’ve ever seen,” NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said.

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said it was a race against the clock to get tourists out before Saturday.

The NSW RFS declared a “tourist leave zone” between Batemans Bay and the northern edge of the Victorian border.
(Supplied: NSW Rural Fire Service)

External Link:

@NSWRFS: Leave Zone – Shoalhaven Widespread extreme Fire Danger forecast for Shoalhaven Sat 4 Jan 2020. If you're holidaying in areas identified on the map, you need to leave before Saturday. Residents should be aware & prepare. For road closure info @LiveTrafficNSW #nswrfs #nswfires

“We have so many fires still burning down there … and quite close to communities as well,” he said.

“We won’t get containment on those fires before Saturday.”

Residents told to evacuate in southern NSW

Strong winds, scorching temperatures and low humidity are forecast for Saturday with temperatures set to hit 41 degrees Celsius on the South Coast.

The Princes Highway is closed between Milton and Tomerong, and between Batemans Bay and Moruya.

The Kings Highway, which connects Batemans Bay to Canberra, remains closed.

However, George Bass Drive, which runs along the coast, is open south of the Bay, with heavy traffic conditions in place.

Any changes to traffic conditions will be updated on the NSW Live Traffic website.

Police and emergency services have been escorting people out of the Bendalong, Manyana and Cunjurong areas — north of Ulladulla — about 20 cars at a time.

Those villages were cut off after the Currowan fire decimated large swathes of Conjola Park.

Video: People passing through Bega describe the fires they are fleeing.

(ABC News)

Traffic on major highways is heavy as holidaymakers attempt to flee the region under reduced speed limits.

How to get out of the ‘leave zone’
As authorities race to prepare for horror bushfire conditions along the NSW South Coast on Saturday, the message being sent to tourists stranded in the area since New Year’s Eve is clear: get out now.

“People are going to have to be patient on the roads,” Mr Constance said.

“We need people to stick to the major roads, stick to the roads that are open.”

Journalist Phil Coorey was traveling between Cooma and Bega and described a major traffic jam with many hundreds of cars, caravans and trucks backed up as far as he could see.

“There were hundreds, if not thousands, more cars as I got past the tailback coming the other way to add to it,” he said.


A long line of cars trying to leave Batemans Bay on the NSW South Coast before dangerous fire conditions on Saturday. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)

“I saw one police car on the entire trip. I stopped at an RFS checkpoint and told these traffic guys and they said they’re aware of it but ‘the police are too stretched.'”

Sydney ABC reporter Johanna McDiarmid was holidaying with her family in Ulladulla and said it was “bumper-to-bumper” in South Nowra.

They had detoured through into Conjola Park, where scores of homes were razed, to collect family friends before travelling further north towards Wollongong.

“You could see the power poles on the roads, powerlines across the driveway,” she said.

Town ‘not defendable’

In the south of the state, residents in the town of Batlow have been told their community will not be defendable if fire forecasts become a reality tomorrow afternoon.

The area is home to 1,300 people.

The Dunns Road fire, which is threatening the town, also prompted the evacuation of the Kosciuszko National Park and a nearby prison on Thursday, after burning through 130,000 hectares in recent days.

The RFS designated a leave zone around the town and surrounding country on Thursday afternoon, and told residents to get out urgently.

“If you are in this area, particularly in the general area from Batlow North to Wondalga, and west to Blowering Dam, you need to leave before tomorrow,” the notice said

Fuel demands overwhelm supply

Mr Constance acknowledged that many evacuees were struggling to find fuel — long queues were seen stretching out from petrol stations around Batemans Bay.

“We’re trying to get out of here as the authorities want us to leave,” holidaymaker Tracey Feeney said.

“So we’re just waiting for all their garages to open up, they’ve apparently got no power still.”


An evacuee in Pambula, NSW found this signage outside a house offering food, water, shower and shelter. (Supplied: Anita Glover)

Mr Constance said tankers carrying up to 60,000 litres of fuel were brought in overnight.

“People are queueing up to get into petrol stations,” he said.

“Obviously there is a limit … so people need to gauge their fuel.

“You can’t leave on an empty tank, because the power is off in a lot of places. We need people to be well planned.”

Frustrated and worried people are forming lengthy queues outside supermarkets, hoping to stock up on food, camping supplies and other necessities.

A patient crowd lined up outside Moruya Woolworths, where limited staff were permitting 20 people at a time to manage the situation and avoid rushes.

Video: Dozens of residents are queuing to get into Woolworths for supplies while visitors are making their way out of fire-stricken areas

(ABC News)

The evacuation order came as the RFS revealed 382 homes were destroyed by the South Coast fires on New Year’s Eve.

It brings the total number of homes lost this bushfire season to 1,298.

Deputy Commissioner Rogers said the destruction was going to get a lot worse.

Video: NSW Rural Fire Service is urging tourists in towns from Batemans Bay to the Victorian border to leave today

(ABC News)

“The unfortunate part of this is that that’s not the end of it,” he said.

“There are more homes that are lost and crews will be out again today trying to account for all of those so we can give residents surety on what’s happened to their particular homes.”

Eight people are known to have died since Wednesday in a horror week for bushfires across the country, including a father-son duo and a volunteer firefighter.


The remains of a home at Conjola Park after a bushfire swept through on New Year’s Eve. (ABC News: Selby Stewart)

A 63-year-old man and his 29-year-old son died in Cobargo on Tuesday while defending their property and volunteer firefighter Samuel McPaul died after his truck flipped in a fire tornado in Jingellic, just north of the Victorian border.

Another three bodies were found at Lake Conjola, and one man was found in a burnt-out car at nearby Yatte Yattah.

Mr Constance said the speed of the fire on New Year’s Eve should be a warning to locals and visitors about the dangerous conditions forecast for Saturday.

“I think the fire moved at a pace that no-one expected. It shot round the back of Nelligen to Runnyford, hit Mogo pretty hard and then just burned through to the beach,” Mr Constance said.

“It’s devastating, but we’ll pull together.”

More bushfire coverage:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘Looks like a warzone’: How and where New Year’s Eve bushfire destruction happened


Out-of-control bushfires created a New Year’s nightmare for many Australians.

Rather than celebrating the new year, many in Victoria’s east and on the NSW South Coast spent their time evacuated from their homes or ended up protecting them as walls of flame bore down.

Here’s where — and how, according to eye-witness accounts — the destruction happened.

Mallacoota, Victoria

The idyllic beachside village lies on the coast close to the NSW border and for most parts of the year has a population of little over 1,000 people, which swells during holiday periods. It is also one of the most isolated towns in the state, which is why the fire that wreaked havoc there was so dangerous.

What happened:

Mallacoota is where most of the dreadful New Year’s Eve news kicked off as the town woke to blackened skies.

It was still dark at 9:30am and later in the day the sky changed to a terrifying red as holidaymakers who could not make it out before it was too late to leave huddled on the beach or on the town’s jetty.

When the wind changed later in the day and the conditions were safer, a cheer went up from those on that pier.

Video: Thousands of residents on standby at Mallacoota beach as fire front approaches town

(ABC News)

Business-owner Mark Peters described the devastating scenes in Mallacoota where several homes and structures were lost.

He sheltered by the water as fires approached the township on Tuesday and has since returned to town to find his property reduced to rubble.


The scenes on Mallacoota pier as the fire bore down on the township. (Instagram: @travelling_aus_family)

“It’s been totally flattened … it looks like a warzone,” Mr Peters told RN Breakfast.

“All the houses around me are gone. There’s probably 15 houses in the street, probably 6 of them survived.


A photo posted to Twitter on December 31, 2019 about 5:00pm shows destroyed buildings in Mallacoota after a fire tore through. (Twitter: Luke McCrone)

He owned bed and breakfast accommodation in Mallacoota but says he wasn’t insured.

“We had mudbrick holiday units. The mudbrick survived, everything else was gutted.”

Video: Footage has revealed the extent of destruction in Mallacoota

(ABC News)

Samantha Corbett was on holiday in Mallacoota with her family and joined the thousands of people who sought shelter at the boat ramp as the bushfire hit the town.

“We have watched houses burn today. It’s been gut wrenching,” Ms Corbett said.

Mallacoota resident Don Ashby told ABC Gippsland that fire sirens went off shortly before 8:30am as the bushfire reached the edge of the town.

“It’s like the darkest, darkest night,” he said.


Where the fires were in Victoria. (ABC)

Sarsfield, Victoria

The isolated rural town in East Gippsland, on the Great Alpine Road, has a recorded population of little over 600 residents.

What happened:

Bushfires ripped through the township on Monday night and Tuesday morning, leaving twisted metal and gutted buildings behind.

The local school was completely destroyed by the fire.

Video: Numerous structures burnt in Clifton Creek and Sarsfield

(ABC News)

A local police sergeant, Graham Shenton, told a harrowing story of survival and he knew he was extremely lucky after opting to defend his property — a decision he later described as “stupid”.

“The sky dropped down, it was like fire falling out of the sky and it lit up everything between me and the river, and everything burned,” Sergeant Shelton told the ABC.

“Everything you think you know about fire, when it comes, it just makes its own mind up.”

Myles Nichols flew back from Brisbane to survey the scene and said he had lost three properties.

More bushfire coverage:

Nineteen structures were destroyed in the small town.

In nearby Clifton Creek, Khat Hammond fought back tears as she told of losing her house, the only thing left — a melted down motorbike.

“You just don’t realise how much your house, such a large thing, can compact down to nothing but a chimney. Everything just goes. I had no concept of how everything could go.

“There was one motorbike left behind and it had just melted into the floor.”

Corryong and Cudgewa, Victoria

The towns, which are 10 minutes apart, were both left decimated by a firefront on New Year’s Eve. The total combined population sits at around 1,500 with Corryong the much bigger of the two towns near the NSW border.

What happened:

Fire crews struggled to get in and out of the isolated towns, adding to the drama of a massive blaze coming through.

In the early afternoon numerous properties were lost on the outskirts of the town, including some believed to be in the smaller town of Cudegwa.

Fire chiefs however could not determine the numbers that were lost.

Video: Vision of flames approaching Corryong in Victoria

(ABC News)

The area is still one where details of what happened are the most scarce, but was described in a second-hand account as a disaster zone.

Shalee Gherbaz said she had spoken to her brother in Corryong, who described the town as “an absolute mess”.

“Fires are everywhere but the town was standing strong,” Ms Gherbaz said.


So many of the NSW fires were in this area. (ABC)

Batemans Bay, NSW

Located on the New South Wales South Coast, the area is especially busy at Christmas time when many Sydneysiders head south to take vacations, whether they be at holiday homes or camping. The area is usually home to over 16,000 people but it swells over holiday periods.

Batemans Bay is also a haven for wildlife.

What happened:

Batemans Bay came under siege as a ring of fire surrounded the area in the early afternoon.

Residents and holiday-makers took refuge on local beaches and flames could be seen rising high on the opposite point in truly terrifying scenes.


This was one of many fiery scenes near Batemans Bay. (Supplied)

Making matters worse, there was radio silence as communications in the area dropped out, leaving many fearing the worst. Even mobile phone coverage went down and, to an extent, panic set in.


Evacuees on a beach at Batemans Bay amid bushfires across the NSW South Coast. (Twitter: Alastairprior)

“There’s no internet, we cannot access the RFS website and I know everyone is doing their absolute best but we have no information,” Karen Freer, who was on holiday from Canberra, said on Tuesday.

“We don’t know where the fire is … we just don’t know the current situation.”

When the dust settled on New Year’s Day the scene was one of catastrophic damage with hundreds of properties destroyed and at least one person unaccounted for.

Federal MP Fiona Phillips said the scale of destruction in the Batemans Bay area has been enormous.


A Batemans Bay home which was ravaged by fire on New Year’s Eve. (ABC News)

“It’s just been absolute devastation,” Ms Phillips said.

“The building loss we believe around the Batemans Bay area and Mogo is in the hundreds. It’s very, very significant.”

Conjola Park, NSW

The small, idyllic inlet lies just 18 kilometres to the north of regional centre Ulladulla and is popular with campers, fishermen and surfers due to the great conditions for all three pursuits.

What happened:

Video: Fire crews from Station 509 Wyoming share footage of moments before their truck was overrun by a fire front south of Nowra

(ABC News)

Fire ripped through the area late on New Year’s Eve and, in the town, it left a trail of destruction. Eighty-nine properties were lost in the small area and harrowing tales have emerged.


The remains of a home at Conjola Park after a bushfire swept through on New Year’s Eve. January 1, 2020. (ABC News: Selby Stewart)

Lake Conjola resident Karen Lissa told the ABC she thought she would die.

“You just go through all these emotions,” she said.

“You think ‘I’m gonna die’.

“We’re lucky. Just really grateful that we’re alive and we’ve got our house.

“I’ve never seen this. So many homes lost, this is devastating.”

Video: Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp says at least 50 structures have been lost in Victoria's bushfires

(ABC News)

A man also lost his life in the area. His body found in a burnt-out car near Lake Conjola, just off the Princes Highway.

Cobargo, NSW

The town of Cobargo is a historic village of nearly 800 people near Bega, in the south of New South Wales.

What happened:

In short, scenes of horror and devastation rocked the tiny community on New Years Eve when fire tore through the town early on Tuesday morning.

A woman found her husband Robert Salway and her son Patrick Salway dead after they had tried in vain to protect the family home.

The main street was destroyed and, at the end of the day, Patrick Salway’s wife Renee posted a touching tribute on social media.


The remains of main strip on the Princes Highway in Cobargo, NSW. Residents said huge swathes of the town have been completely razed by bushfires. December 31, 2019. (Supplied)

“I love you now, I love you still, I always have and always will,” she wrote.

“I will see you again Patrick, my best friend.

“Hope you are up there ‘fixing things in the stars tonight’. Love forever, Harley & me.

“(Thank you everyone for your concern. We are broken).”

Mogo, NSW

The picturesque town, inland of Batemans Bay, is arguably most famous for its zoo, which used to house some white lion cubs.

What happened:

The battle to save the zoo was won as staff fought the flames themselves, while the zoo’s director Chad Staples took smaller animals home to his house to keep them safe.

As the fire raged they put the large animals in the safest parts of the zoo and were able to not only save the property but also make sure not a single animal lost its life.


All the animals are safe at Mogo Zoo after what was described by zoo staff as ‘Armageddon’ only a few hours ago. (Chad Staples)

Mr Staples described the conditions as “apocalyptic” but felt he and staff were able to defend the zoo because they enacted their fire defence plan.

“It felt like Armageddon a few hours ago,” Mr Staples told the ABC.

Others were not so lucky.

The zoo survived but the town itself was stripped bare as much of the main street was razed to the ground, unable to avoid the ferocious flames.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘The number of lives lost will climb’: Seven dead, 176 homes destroyed in NSW bushfires

Bega 2550

Seven people have died and 176 homes have been destroyed by devastating bushfires that hit southern New South Wales on Wednesday.

Key points:

  • Death toll expected to rise as number of people killed reaches seven
  • RFS says 176 homes have been destroyed with 89 homes lost in Conjola Park
  • Karen Lissa thought she was going to die when a bushfire swept through her street

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) confirmed that three more bodies had been found after the earlier deaths of four people.

On Wednesday, the bodies of a father and son were found in Cobargo — it is believed they died while trying to defend their property.

The body of a man was found in a burnt-out car on a road off the Princes Highway at Yatte Yattah near Lake Conjola.

Volunteer firefighter Samuel McPaul, 28, died after his truck flipped in the Green Valley blaze in Jingellic, 70 kilometres east of Albury near the NSW-Victoria border.


The remains of a home at Conjola Park after a bushfire swept through on New Year’s Eve. (ABC News: Selby Stewart)

NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Gary Worboys on Wednesday said three more bodies were found at Lake Conjola.

“Sadly, we can report today that police have confirmed a further three deaths as a result of the fires on the South Coast,” Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.

“Police are also at Lake Conjola now, where a house has been destroyed by fire and the occupant of that home is still unaccounted for. This goes on the back of the four deaths reported yesterday.”

A 70-year-old man was found dead outside a home 6km west of Lake Conjola.

The body of a man was found in a vehicle in Sussex Inlet this morning while a body was found outside a home at Coolagolite.

Meanwhile, a 72-year-old man remains unaccounted for at Belowra, about 50km north west of Cobargo, and a 70-year-old woman remains unaccounted for at Conjola Park.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said he expected the death toll to rise this afternoon.

“The preliminary advice is that we will, sadly, see the number of people, the number of lives lost, that will climb this afternoon,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

The RFS also confirmed at least 176 homes had been destroyed.

More bushfire coverage:

Some of the worst loses were suffered in Conjola Park, where 89 homes were destroyed, and Malua Bay, where 40 homes were lost.

Deputy RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers said that total was “by no means the end”.

‘You just got through all these emotions’

Video: Karen Lissa describes the moment a bushfire swept through her street

(ABC News)

Lake Conjola resident Karen Lissa said she thought she was going to die when a bushfire swept through her street.

“You just go through all these emotions,” she said.

“You think ‘I’m gonna die’.

“We’re lucky. Just really grateful that we’re alive and we’ve got our house.

“I’ve never seen this. So many homes lost, this is devastating.”

Some residents were not as lucky, as towns ravaged by bushfires were left “unrecognisable” and thousands of NSW South Coast residents and travellers remained anxious as authorities began a stocktake of Wednesday’s devastation.

Helen Dwyer said there was hardly any time to react as her retirement home was destroyed.

“We didn’t have time to pack anything. We probably weren’t as well prepared as we should have been … it was just so ferocious and quick,” she said.

“We sat down at the lake most of the day, and came back up in the evening and can’t believe how many, in our street, all the houses that’ve gone.”

Karen Freer from Canberra remained stranded in Batehaven, just outside Batemans Bay.

Her phone battery had died and like many across the coastal towns, she was anxious about what would happen next.

“There’s no internet, we cannot access the RFS website and I know everyone is doing their absolute best, but we have no information,” Ms Freer said.

“We don’t know where the fire is … we just don’t know the current situation.”


Evacuees on a beach at Batemans Bay amid the bushfire threat. (Twitter: Alastairprior)

Federal MP Fiona Phillips said the scale of destruction in the Batemans Bay area had been enormous.

“It’s just been absolute devastation,” she said.

“The building loss we believe around the Batemans Bay area and Mogo is in the hundreds. It’s very, very significant.

“The industrial area at Batemans Bay has certainly suffered significant damage and the Mogo CBD is unrecognisable.”


A woman stares at the ruins of her home at Conjola Park. (ABC News)

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said it was too early to determine the extent of the damage, but “was aware of heavy tolls in terms of damage and destruction”.

Video: Fire crews from Station 509 Wyoming share footage of moments before their truck was overrun by a fire front south of Nowra

(ABC News)

Residents forced to flee to the beach

Also particularly hit was Conjola Park, north of Ulladulla, where early assessments showed more than 50 properties were completely razed.

The Currowan bushfire ripped through the region on New Year’s Eve, forcing many residents to flee to the beach.


A Batemans Bay home which was ravaged by fire on New Year’s Eve. (ABC News)

Dozens of cars in the Lake Conjola area, north of Ulladulla, were also seen by an ABC reporter to be destroyed in the region.

He said cars were found melted in the street and paint from vehicles was draining down the road.

Large trees were seen fallen across roads in the town and powerlines were down.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it had been “a very horrible day for NSW in terms of the fire conditions”.


The ruins of a house destroyed by fire in Batemans Bay. (ABC News)

She said fire crews would be taking advantage of easing weather conditions to conduct backburning and restored power to critical infrastructure.

More than 100 fires were burning in the state this morning, seven of those at watch and act level.

On Tuesday, residents south of Nowra were warned they could be without power or telecommunications for two days.

“We ask people not to worry if they can’t contact their loved ones or friends,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

NSW South Coast to lose telecommunications as police confirm two killed in bushfires

Bega 2550

Large parts of the NSW South Coast are expected to lose all telecommunications in coming hours, as bushfires continue to ravage the region.

Two people have died and a third is missing amid the bushfire crisis, which has seen several emergency fires burn out of control.

Key points:

  • A power outage tonight is expected to knock out internet and phone access between Nowra and Moruya
  • Residents are being urged to move towards urban areas, or seek shelter on beaches
  • Authorities say two people have died and a third is unaccounted for

Father and son Robert Salway, 63, and Patrick Salway, 29, perished in the blaze, which tore through the Bega Valley town of Cobargo early this morning.

The pair had stayed behind to defend their property in Wandella, 10 kilometres west of Cobargo, after Robert’s wife — who is also Patrick’s mother — evacuated.

She returned on Tuesday morning and discovered their bodies.

A third person is missing at Belowra.

Large areas of Cobargo were destroyed when the fire ripped into the town, with buildings on the main street reduced to rubble.

But the threat has extended across more than one hundred kilometres along the coast.

Police are warning that the area between Nowra and Moruya — a large portion of the coastline — is expected to lose all telecommunications access overnight.

A power outage will mean the region will lose internet, mobile phone coverage and landline connections.

The outage is expected to affect hospitals as well as the general public.

As of early Wednesday morning there were three emergency-level fires burning in or near the South Coast region.

They are located at:

  • Badja Forest Road, Countegany, north of Bega
  • Clyde Mountain, near the Kings Highway
  • Currowan, where a massive fire has burned through hundreds of thousands of hectares north of Batemans Bay over the past month.

See how the day unfolded in our blog

Three more fires are burning at watch and act level: one at Werri Berri, one at Charleys Forest, and another at Clyde Ridge Rd, south-west of Nowra.


People in Batemans Bay evacuated to the coastline amid the fire threat. (Twitter: Alastairprior)

The Currowan fire, being pushed by a southerly change, generated a thunderstorm above itself as it bore down on communities between Milton and Nowra.

The Princes Highway remains closed at several locations and motorists are advised to stay away from the South Coast as there is no forecast for when the road will reopen.

Other road closures include the Kings Highway, between Braidwood and Nelligen and Turpentine Road, between Jerrawangala and Tomerong.

Video: House saved, shed gone, everyone's alive: Daniel Marshall returns home after fires in Quaama

(ABC News)

As the Clyde Mountain fire progressed on Tuesday, it encircled Batemans Bay as it pushed south.

There are serious fears for several properties at the tourist village of Mogo, however staff at the Mogo Zoo were able to defend the business and the animals housed there.

Residents east of the Princes Highway between Batemans Bay and Broulee have been told to seek shelter, as it is too late to leave.

Further south, locals say at least one building in Quaama has been destroyed in the Badja Forest Road fire.

“We have got reports from the field that some of the most impacted areas are in the Cobargo area, Broulee, Mogo [and] Fishermans Paradise,” RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

External Link:

Virginia Trioli tweet: Power out and can't use tap water now in Bermagui: police saying road to Narooma now closing and we will be stuck here for 3-4 days

“We’re seeing fire impacting onto communities, people’s homes and other infrastructure.

“We’ve had reports of schools impacted, we’ve had reports of businesses and some of the small town centres being impacted by these fires.

“We’re talking about the buildings being impacted, damaged or destroyed numbering in the dozens.”

Evacuee looked ‘into the gates of hell’


Caroline Long left home with her pets at 1:00am. She does not think her house will survive. (ABC News: Adriane Reardon)

Caroline Long evacuated her property in Verona at 1:00am as overnight winds pushed the Badja Forest Road fire towards her home.

She said she suspected she would not have a home to go back to.

“I’m not hopeful,” Ms Long said.

“I haven’t had anything confirmed but I’ve seen video footage from a neighbour last night who stayed and it didn’t look good.”

“It’s a weatherboard house on top of a ridge, next to a mountain. I don’t think there’s anything left.”

Ms Long evacuated to Bega with her housemate and her dogs and cats.

She recalled the moment she left her home and drove out onto the Princes Highway as “intensely hot”.

“It was just like looking into the gates of hell.”

People in fire-prone areas urged to move to beaches


Buildings in Cobargo were still burning after daybreak. (Supplied: Josh Mead)

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said Batemans Bay was being hit particularly hard by “aggressive and dangerous” fire activity.

“We are seeing, for example, a major centre like Batemans Bay, we’re seeing the fire burn right out across the Princes Highway, through towards the coastal areas of Batemans Bay,” he said.


People in affected areas have been urged to move towards the coast. (Supplied: Alix Dolstra)

In seriously affected areas, RFS spokesman Greg Allan said seeking shelter on the beach may be the safest option.

“If it’s safe to do so, move in an easterly direction towards the coast and shelter on the beach,” he said.

“If it’s not safe, shelter in place and protect yourself from the heat of the fire.”

Others in bushfire-prone areas along the South Coast have been advised to head towards more urban areas including Narooma, Moruya, Bega and Batemans Bay.

External Link:

Scott Ludlam tweet "evacuated to narooma. hoping everyone in cobargo and quaama got out. thinking of everyone in the path of this thing.. please look out for each other and stay safe"

“Staying safe in large centres, such as Batemans Bay, is a viable option, otherwise a lot of other coastal villages and hamlets, the messages is to head to safety and generally speaking, safety is towards the beach,” Commissioner Fitzimmons said.

“It’s a dangerous and volatile situation already down the South Coast of New South Wales and we expect that to increase as we see conditions throughout today before we see the southerly move up the coast.

“We saw extraordinary fire overnight, exceeding what was predicted in the given conditions.

“I understand the [Bureau of Meteorology] is looking to update the forecast to be slightly worse than they thought was the case yesterday afternoon.”


The Clyde Mountain fire has torn through forest and reached Batemans Bay. (Supplied: NSW RFS)

A total fire ban is in place for the entire south-eastern part of the state, including the ACT.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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