Tag: NSW

Bars, clubs celebrate as Sydney’s lockout laws get lifted

Sydney 2000

NSW Police and the hospitality industry are gearing up for the end of Sydney’s controversial lockout laws, which have today been officially lifted.

Key points:

  • The ABC understands NSW Police will increase patrols around licensed venues from tonight
  • Several venues across Sydney are planning celebration parties this weekend to mark the end of the laws
  • The laws led to a dramatic decrease in violence in Kings Cross

The Berejiklian Government last year announced several restrictions imposed on licensed venues would be scrapped across the city’s CBD.

The exception was in Kings Cross, which the State Government said would be up for review in 12 months.

The ABC understands police will increase patrols around licensed venues from tonight.

“The NSW Police remains committed to ensuring safety and security of the community in responding to alcohol-related crime,” a NSW Police spokesperson said.

From today, patrons can enter licensed venues in the CBD and Oxford Street after 1:30am.


The laws saw fierce opposition from Sydney’s nightlife and entertainment sector. (ABC News: Jean Kennedy)

Restrictions on serving cocktails, shots and drinks in glass after midnight are gone and venues with “good records” will have their last drinks extended by half an hour to 3:30am.

Bottleshops across NSW can also stay open until midnight from Monday to Saturday, with an 11:00pm closing time on Sunday.

Some venues in central Sydney will host celebration parties tonight and this weekend to mark the end of the much-maligned legislation.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore declared on Twitter: “Sydney is open again”.

The laws were introduced in 2014 by then-premier Barry O’Farrell in a bid to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence.

They were sparked by the “coward-punch” deaths of Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie in Kings Cross.

Assaults in Kings Cross dropped by 53 per cent across a five-year period after the laws were introduced, according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).

CBD assaults also dropped to 13 per cent over the first two and a half years, before levelling out to 4 per cent across the same five-year period.

However, many argued the drop in assaults correlated with a drop in patrons caused by the new nightlife rules.

Areas outside the lockout law boundaries saw an increase in violence, with a 30 per cent jump in assaults across Newtown, Double Bay, Bondi and Coogee.


From today, patrons can enter licensed venues in the CBD and Oxford Street after 1:30am. (Supplied: Destination NSW)

The venue restrictions also wreaked havoc on the city’s nightlife, with a NSW parliamentary inquiry last year hearing about 270 venues were forced to shut down.

Analysis by Deloitte Access Economics found Sydney was missing out on $16 billion a year because its night-time economy was underdeveloped.

Tim Piccione, a pub manager in The Rocks, was worried the damage to Sydney’s reputation and hospitality industry was already done.

But he was nevertheless excited by the lockout laws being lifted.

“I think it’s definitely going to be a good thing to encourage people to come in and actually feel like they can stay out late,” he said.

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

It’s cooler and calmer, so why can’t we put these fires out?


Every day, new stories about how people and wildlife have been impacted by bushfires across Australia emerge.

And with so many fires burning across multiple states, there is no sign of them abating.

NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has emphasised that it will take weeks to put out these fires, even with several days of milder weather forecast for the most affected areas.

But why is this the case, and why can’t more be done on days of lower temperatures and little wind?

Dry, changeable conditions

In the past, firefighters could be confident that a fire would eventually run up against wet ground or plants, which would slow its progress.

Without dry fuel, it would founder and die.


Equipment similar to common garden tools can be used to remove fuel from a fireground. (Supplied: NSW RFS)

But this fire season has come amid a period of severe drought and unprecedented weather conditions, driven by climate change.

That means both drought and strong, gusty winds in combination.

Brian Williams, who has worked as an RFS volunteer and professional firefighter for more than 50 years, said the weather patterns were making it impossible to extinguish the large blazes burning in multiple locations.

“I’ve never seen fire burn so quickly — because we’re in such a dire drought there is no moisture on the ground,” Mr Williams said.

“And that means when a fire runs through it doesn’t lose any energy in igniting fuel in front of itself. It just keeps picking up speed and growing bigger and higher and faster and hotter.”

Waterbombing only works in some areas


Waterbombing can be of limited use in some conditions. (ABC News: Nathan Morris)

Viewed from the ground or via videos from the scene, waterbombing planes appear to be dropping mammoth volumes of water onto the fires.

But several factors impact their efficacy, including the fact that the water usually fails to fall any further than the tree-tops, when dropped on fires burning in wooded areas.

“Our eucalypts are such a big heavy tree, we have heavy canopy, lots of leaf and lots of branches and the water will just not penetrate through,” Mr Williams said.

“By the time the water hits the canopy, it’s a very, very mild amount of water hitting down onto the ground.”

As a result, any waterbombing efforts are directed towards those areas where firefighters are trying to protect property.

Where the Shark Creek fire has been burning in northern NSW, it’s a little different.

There, the fire has been burning in peat underground and waterbombing has only managed to suppress the fire for a few days at most.

“We just can’t put enough water out there [in] large-scale waterbombers, even the supersize waterbombers — they can’t carry enough water,” Mr Williams said.

Fighting fire with fire: backburning makes a blaze bigger


A fire burning at Monastery in Penrose, NSW, on January 10. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

The main strategy used by firefighters now is to manage the edges of each fire, Mr Williams said.

“Because of the sheer size of them, you just cannot get in and put them out,” he said.

When weather conditions ease, backburning is a key tool.

“I think this week we’re forecast to have some very good days, so that gives the opportunity then for planning to go ahead, for getting in and back-burning as much as possible, to try and contain it to hard roads,” he said.

“And that may be along the Kings Highway or major forestry trails, and that then prevents large fire runs on those real, hot windy days.

“If we can take fuel away we’re making the fire bigger but we’re reducing the possibility of the fire breaking containment lines.”

Backburning is conducted on days of milder conditions around the edges of active fires and is different to hazard reduction burning, which is done during colder seasons to mitigate risk once it becomes hotter.

But hazard reduction burning has not been effective in every case, due to the catastrophic conditions, Commissioner Fitzsimmons said last week.

“We’ve had plenty of reports in the recent emergency of the fires just racing through areas that had had hazard reduction burns. There was very little effect from having hazard reduction burns being done,” he said.


The fires’ impacts have been felt by people and wildlife alike. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Firefighter safety

Fires are indiscriminate about where they burn and often find their way into inaccessible places.

This season’s unpredictability meant that was even more of an issue for those battling each blaze, Mr Williams said.

Many fires have been burning in places that are either short on escape routes, or in areas of tough terrain where the risk of injury is high.

“Firefighter safety is paramount,” Mr Williams said.

“We have a rule and we go out to fight fires to save people’s lives — and the general public and the firemen’s lives comes before anything else.

“Going into these remote areas, we know we can get in, but if you look at the worst-case scenario, a weather change, can they get out safely?”


The safety of firefighting personnel is the main priority for authorities, Mr Williams said. (Supplied: DFES incident photographer Evan Collis )

Instead, they focus on breaking the fire down into manageable sections, favouring those parts that are more easily accessible by way of paths such as fire trails.

“We look at areas that we can attack and try and, with planning, break the fire down into grids that you work on,” he said.

“They’re the areas that you attack when the conditions are right, so you can try and mitigate fire spread in those parts of the fire.”

Ensuring personnel get the rest they need is also a consideration for authorities.

Mr Williams said all personnel, including firefighters, would be suffering from fatigue after so many weeks of bad weather.

Long-term heavy rain is our best hope


Bushfires burning in heavily wooded or high areas of forest can be inaccessible for firefighters. (ABC News: Mitch Woolnough)

The message from fire authorities is clear: only heavy, consistent rain will put an end to these megafires before the bushfire season ends.

Even in the Tallaganda National Park, where the blaze first started in November, flames and embers still sometimes flare up.

“We just need a couple of weeks of constant rain,” Mr Williams said.

Bushfire Science Associate Professor Geoffrey Cary of the Fenner School of Environment and Society agreed, saying the drought was a key factor in the scale and ferocity of the fires.

“A key reason these bushfires can’t easily be extinguished during milder fire weather is the severity of the drought combined with thousands of kilometres of the perimeter,” he said.

He said the previous three years of low rainfall had exacerbated those conditions.

“Australia experiences extensive drought from time to time. Notable for this drought is that winter rainfall has been at very low levels for the last three years and its during this period that moisture content typically recharges,” he said.

“What is critical is the capacity of fire agencies to extinguish fires during milder weather conditions to limit the extent of the area burned.”

Stay across our bushfire coverage:

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

This Norwegian-flagged supply vessel answered fire-hit Mallacoota’s SOS

Mallacoota 3892

As smoke lay thick and heavy across Mallacoota, an unfamiliar vessel came slowly into view.

Key points

  • The Norwegian-flagged supply vessel normally services gas and oil platforms
  • It brought food and water for the 4,000 people stranded there and diesel to power generators
  • The crew cared for the sick and elderly until HMAS Choules arrived to evacuate the stranded people

It was much larger than the fishing boats and yachts usually in the area and it was not the much-anticipated Navy.

On New Year’s Eve, without fanfare, the Norwegian-flagged supply vessel Far Saracen arrived at Mallacoota answering an SOS call from Victoria’s emergency services.

Its crew of 14 Australian and Kiwi seafarers were the first to reach the town via the water.

They brought much-needed supplies to the thousands of locals and tourists huddled on the beach sheltering from the fire wreaking havoc on the town.


People sought refuge at the Mallacoota waterfront as bushfires closed in on the town. (Instagram: @travelling_aus_family)

Bringing 30 pallets of food, water and — with the power to the town cut — much-needed diesel for generators and CFA tankers, it was there to help.

“They arrived on scene days before the other services with a crew of 14 Aussie and Kiwi sailors,” said Chris Nairey, in a post on Facebook.

It was another day before the defence force arrived to begin one of Australia’s largest peace-time evacuations.


HMAS Choules evacuated people trapped in Mallacoota after the fires. (Supplied: Department of Defence)

The vessel, usually used to deliver cargo to gas and oil drilling platforms, had been redirected from the Esso gas fields at Golden Beach.

It was one of two boats the gas company sent in response to the unfolding natural disaster.

Supplies were taken ashore before the Far Saracen became a temporary home for the most vulnerable until the Navy arrived.


Pallets of water and food were delivered to the 4,000 people stranded in the town. (Facebook: Chris Nairey)

“They worked tirelessly looking after sick people, the elderly, infants, even special needs teenagers,” said Mr Nairey.

Chris Nairey, a Victorian police officer, was also helping those who were stranded, spending a week on the boat. He said the crew “worked around the clock to keep us going”.

“They fed us, they gave us beds,” said Mr Nairey.


The Far Saracen was met by fisheries and police boats to ferry the supplies to shore. (Facebook: Chris Nairey)

“They maintained our [police] boats and kept an eye on them while we slept.

“This was the most organised and professional workplace that I have ever seen.”

Mr Nairey, who is not a fan of social media, said he put up the rare social media post to ensure the captain and the crew’s work did not go unnoticed.

“Their family and friends need to know how good they are at what they do and what they have done for the town of Mallacoota,” he said.

The Maritime Union of Australia said the crew of the Far Saracen also made a large donation to the Mallacoota Wildlife Centre to help with the recovery effort.

Final Mallacoota evacuees board ship

On Tuesday afternoon, a group of around 200 people boarded the HMAS Choules in the final Navy evacuation from the town.

Premier Daniel Andrews said there were still some people in Mallacoota who had registered for evacuation but were not able to board the ship, who would be flown out by helicopter instead.

Across the state, firefighters are working to put in place about 1,500 kilometres of containment lines around bushfires in a bid to reduce their spread when conditions worsen on Friday.


Firefighters were working on containment lines around the Green Valley fire near Jingellic, NSW. (ABC News: Ashlee Aldridge)

Rescue crews have also been able to get access to most remote East Gippsland communities which had been cut off by the fires, with some supplies delivered to the three which remained isolated.

Power has also remained a struggle for bushfire-hit towns, with around 3,100 people without power across the state’s bushfire zones at 4:00pm.

Those who wish to help communities affected by the bushfires are being urged to donate to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal, which has been set up by the Government in partnership with Bendigo Bank and the Salvation Army.

Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said there had been reports of fraudsters exploiting goodwill by posing as bushfire victims or charities in cold calls and doorknocking and urged the community to only donate to the official fund or registered charities of their choice.

Stay across our bushfire coverage:

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

‘We can’t use you’: GPs say they were sidelined at bushfire evacuation centres


Regional doctors have reported being sidelined or restricted when offering help at their local bushfire evacuation centres, and are calling for GPs to be formally added to future emergency response plans.

Key points:

  • A Nowra GP says operational barriers hampered her efforts to help
  • She is seeking a meeting with leaders to co-ordinate future responses
  • A medical body suggests creating a register for regional doctors before emergencies happen

As fires burned across New South Wales and Victoria, private GPs in affected areas went to centres where many of their patients had fled.

Yet some say operational barriers and command structures hampered their efforts, and in one case a GP was told she couldn’t work with the official team to treat people.

Kate Manderson is a GP in Nowra and rallied her staff last weekend as NSW braced for extreme conditions.

She raided her four practices and set up a temporary site at a local evacuation centre, bringing nine oxygen cylinders, two cardiac monitors, three defibrillators, and emergency medications.


Dr Manderson brought all the supplies from her own practice. (Supplied)

Dr Manderson said the local authorities were grateful she was there, but she soon hit hurdles.

“I notified the EOC (emergency operation centre) that I was there and willing to help … and the EOC team called me back and said, ‘Well, no. You’re not part of our protocols and you’re not part of our team, so we can’t use you’,” she said.

“It’s not because they didn’t know me, didn’t think I could do a good job … but their protocols, their policies, their governance structures don’t allow someone who is not part of their system to work with their system.

“And that’s what we’re calling to change, to make this part of the system so that these barriers aren’t put in place.”

Some of the supplies Dr Manderson brought to her makeshift clinic.

Dr Manderson said her team treated about 20 people, including those with respiratory issues and an RFS firefighter who had sustained a cut.

She said she had heard similar stories from colleagues in Mallacoota and Merimbula in the past week, and would seek a meeting with people in leadership positions to have GPs embedded in future emergency evacuation plans.

External Link:

Kate Manderson tweet

“The doctors down at Mallacoota, there’s a bunch of GPs who have stepped up to the plate and got stuff done just because they were there and wanted to step up, not because there was a process in place to allow that to happen,” she said.

“The local health district and the ambulance services were just not really interested in helping us out.”

External Link:

Michael Rice tweet

A doctor in Merimbula — who has chosen to remain anonymous — also expressed frustration at the co-ordination of local help.

She said she went to an evacuation centre but was told she could only give basic first aid, and an ambulance had to be called for anything else.

She said ambulances took an hour to arrive and the St John’s Ambulance team that had been helping was evacuated from her area.

“I don’t understand why there would not be better co-ordination of care,” she said.

“If not for the dedication of our lovely group of local GPs … these people were abandoned with not even any access to basic first aid.”

‘We don’t want chaos’

This week Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that, for the first time, Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) specialists were being deployed in a domestic setting to provide support.

The eight specialists — two doctors, two nurses, two paramedics and two logisticians — were deployed to the RAAF base in Sale in East Gippsland to provide clinical and logistical assistance to evacuees.


A family awaiting a community meeting in Narooma on the NSW far south coast. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)

Meanwhile, Victoria’s Rural Workforce Agency — a peak body for medical professionals — has put out the call for locum doctors to head to regional areas to provide support in the coming weeks and months.

Agency CEO Trevor Carr said he understood the concerns of local doctors wanting to help when emergencies happened, but it had to be done in a co-ordinated way.

“We need to have a command structure, because otherwise things just turn to chaos,” he said.

“I think one of the challenges is when the emergency is actually in play, the emergency command structures don’t necessarily take into account private individuals. And of course a lot of general practitioners are in private business.


Bushfires have torn through the town of Batlow in south-eastern New South Wales. (Facebook: James R Zimmerman)

He said one idea being considered was creating a register of approved local doctors who could help in future bushfires.

“If at least there’s a preregister of practitioners and clinical nurses with appropriate skills, then as soon as they present their credentials they know that they’re credentialed to go in the zone,” he said.

“That would be a different scenario than just trying to assist in the flurry of the emergency.”

Stay across our bushfire coverage:

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

‘Centuries’ to recover: WA bushfires devastate one of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots

Stirling Range National Park 6338

Rare and unique flora and fauna in Western Australia’s Stirling Range may never fully recover from a massive series of fires which devastated the national park, which is considered one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots.

Key points:

  • More than 40,000 hectares of land have been burned in bushfires in WA’s Stirling Range National Park
  • The park is home to more than 1,500 species of flora, at least 87 of which are found nowhere else in the world
  • Conservationists say the landscape will take centuries to recover and needs long intervals between fires before they can produce viable seeds

Sparked by lightning, intense fires tore through more than 40,000 hectares of land in the park, about 400 kilometres south-east of Perth, between Boxing Day and the New Year.

The series of fires left almost half the rugged park scorched.

With efforts from over 200 fire crew across the week, the fire was brought to advice level without any lives or property damaged.

But there are now concerns for the park’s unique flora and fauna, which has faced multiple large-scale fires in the past two decades.

Biodiversity hotspot

The south-west of Western Australia is recognised internationally as a biodiversity hotspot, largely thanks to the Stirling Range.

The National Park has more than 1,500 species of flora packed within its boundaries — more than the entire British Isles.


This joey was rescued and treated for burns, after it was lost during the Stirling Ranges bushfires 2019. (Supplied: Ryan Pollock)

At least 87 of those species are found nowhere else in the world — including rare mainland quokkas.

Chief executive of Gondwana Link, a private conservation enterprise, Keith Bradby described the park as “one of the most precious jewels of the region” but said frequent fires in the park had put species under a lot of stress.

He said the landscape would never fully recover.

“It will be changed for decades, if not centuries,” he said.

“If [there is] fire too frequently you’ll be taking out plant species before they have a chance to set seed again.

“You will be favouring a few plant species, you’ll totally change the flora and vegetation and you’ll totally change the whole feeding pattern of wildlife — the whole food chain alters.”


A photo of Bluff Knoll before the fires. Landcare experts say the biodiversity will never be the same. (Supplied)

Mr Bradby said he was most concerned for the Montaigne thickets and the quokka population.

“It’s one of the few mainland populations of quokkas left, and they were in that part of the park,” he said.

“Whether they’re going to rebound I can’t tell.

“And the Montaigne thickets are already damaged because of dieback.

“Whether they’re on a downhill trajectory or whether we’ve terminated it — we don’t know.”

Assessing the damage


Greg Mair from Parks and Wildlife Service and Wayne Green from Department of Fire and Emergency Services in front of the peak of Bluff Knoll. (ABC News: Gianfranco Di Giovanni)

The Department of Biodiversity and Conservation (DBCA) will now begin to assess the damage at the national park.

Yesterday, Parks and Wildlife Officers started inspecting the damage on Bluff Knoll, the park’s highest peak at 1,090 metres.

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DBCA south coast regional manager Greg Mair said they will not know the full extent of the damage until spring, when species start to regrow.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to asses apart from an aerial survey,” he said.

“But we do know that among the very rare and interesting species that are in the Stirling Range National Park, a number of them have been burnt, 14 are critically endangered and there are two threatened ecological communities.”

Mr Mair said similar scale fire had burned in the park in 1991, 2000 and 2018.

“The key to this is the interval between fires,” he said.

“Some of these species require really long intervals before they can produce viable seed and if you have too frequent a fire that starts to reduce the seeding capacity and the reproductive capacity of the plant.”

The Stirling Range National Park will remain closed indefinitely, including the popular Bluff Knoll hike, as DBCA assess damage to infrastructure and walk trails to make sure it is safe to enter.

Stay across our bushfire coverage:

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

Second music festival cancelled as bushfire smoke threatens people’s health

Melbourne 3000

A music festival in Victoria’s north-east has been cancelled at the last minute due to poor air quality from bushfire smoke, which is prompting health concerns for the entire state.

Key points:

  • Air quality has improved slightly in Melbourne but is expected to worsen on Thursday when easterly winds pick up
  • Fire-affected communities in East Gippsland and north-eastern Victoria are experiencing hazardous air quality
  • P2 and N95 masks are running low across the state

A Day on the Green was scheduled to take place today at All Saints Estate at Rutherglen, with a line-up including Cold Chisel, Birds of Tokyo and Magic Dirt.

Roundhouse Entertainment promoter Michael Newton said in a statement that the event was cancelled due to “hazardous” air quality at the site and in surrounding areas.

He said the decision was “extremely” disappointing but was made “to protect the health of patrons … staff and artists”.

“The Bureau of Meteorology has advised that wind conditions are not likely to assist in improving this unsafe situation over the coming hours,” he said.

“We are also concerned about traffic, given the fires in the area.”

External Link:

@ADayOnTheGreen: COLD CHISEL – RUTHERGLEN SHOW CANCELLED. We are deeply disappointed we are unable to proceed but our first priority is to the health and safety of our patrons, staff and artists. Full refund will be provided. More info https://t.co/tLNIIlVlDf?amp=1

Mr Newton said they had to wait until the last minute to make a final call but the conditions were not good.

“Our guys have been up here all week working on the site but it wasn’t until I got here yesterday that I fully realised how bad it was,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“It was quite humbling to see them work through the conditions as they have. I just cannot imagine what it must be like for the firefighters and people closer to the action.”

All those who purchased tickets will be contacted by Ticketmaster and given a full refund.

The cancellation follows the Falls Festival event at Lorne over the New Year period being called off due to extreme weather conditions.

Friday’s A Day on the Green show in the Yarra Valley and Saturday’s show at Mt Duneed Estate near Geelong are expected to go ahead.

The chief executive of All Saints Estate, Eliza Brown, said she had been expecting 6,500 people for the event and businesses in Rutherglen would take a big financial hit.

“Not only is it tickets sales, it’s accommodation, food, petrol people filling up with petrol down the main street,” she said.

“All that money doesn’t come into the community.”

The bushfire smoke blanketing Melbourne set off a handful of smoke alarms in the city on Monday and saw air pollution worsen to “very poor”.

Worsening air quality forecast for Thursday

An Ambulance Victoria spokeswoman said the compromised air quality led to a 51 per cent increase in asthma and pollution-related calls yesterday.

An MFB spokeswoman said firefighters were called to a small number of false alarms across the city due to the “smoky air conditions”.

She said the MFB was recommending building managers set their air systems to recycle to prevent smoke filtering into buildings.


Smoke from Tasmania, East Gippsland and Victoria’s north-east created a haze over Melbourne yesterday. (ABC News: Gemma Hall)

The smoke affected air quality in Geelong, which was upgraded to “hazardous” levels yesterday afternoon but improved to “poor” by the evening.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Steven McGibbony said smoke was still lingering over Melbourne today but had cleared up “substantially”.

But he said conditions would worsen again on Thursday when an easterly wind is expected to push smoke from East Gippsland towards the city.

“Visibility was down to 300 metres yesterday in some areas but is up around 10 kilometres this morning,” he said.

External Link:

@jayawtanitrades: Smoke blanket is slowly going away in Melbourne! Air quality yesterday was hazardous and I could feel it.. started coughing all of a sudden for a couple of hours straight. Yesterday vs today images below. God bless Australia. More than 500 million animals have died

Visibility in Horsham and Mildura dropped to about 2 kilometres this morning.

An EPA spokesman said health warnings issued on Monday urging children under 14, the elderly, pregnant women and those with respiratory issues to limit time outdoors still applied.

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton yesterday recommended vulnerable people wear P2 or N25 masks if they had to be outside.

But stores appeared to be running out.

A staff member at Bunnings Collingwood said the store sold out of all P2 and N95 masks on Friday.

“We received a whole heap more on Saturday but they flew off the truck,” he said.

The smoke also prompted tennis great Novak Djokovic to suggest Australian Open organisers consider delaying this year’s event if the problem persists.

Stay across our bushfire coverage:

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

Man reported missing in NSW fires confirmed dead


NSW Police have confirmed another person has died in the bushfires on the state’s South Coast.

Key points:

  • The total number of deaths in NSW this fire season stands at 19, while one person remains missing
  • At least 60 more properties in NSW were destroyed at the weekend
  • The RFS and NSW Government deny claims they rejected Defence Force assistance

Police say the 71-year-old man was reported missing from Nerrigundah.

The man was last sighted on New Year’s Eve and was moving equipment on his property.

Police confirmed he was one of two men Premier Gladys Berejiklian referred to as missing on the South Coast during a press conference on Monday morning.

A second person remains missing from Bombala near the Victorian border.

NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said authorities were hoping for a good outcome.

“Whether they’ve gone to family or friends, that’s what we’re hoping for, or whether it’s something more tragic, we just don’t know at this stage,” he said.

Police said the man’s body was discovered between a property and a car, which had both been destroyed by fire.

The Badja Forest Road Fire had been burning in the area preventing access by emergency services for a number of days.

A large-scale land search was conducted on Monday and police made the grim discovery around 4:00pm.

It brings the total number of deaths from this bushfire season to 19.


Artist Peter Williams lost his home and gallery in Mogo. (ABC News)

At least 60 properties were destroyed at the weekend, among them the Mogo gallery and home of artists Vanessa and Peter Williams.

“The house wasn’t just a house, Vanessa tuned it to be almost like a museum,” Mr Williams said.

“It was full of our art and precious things and we’ll never have it again.”

The blaze that burnt through their property was so hot that unfinished pottery did not need to go into the kiln.

“The fire actually finished off my work — and me,” Mr Williams said.

“We’ve just had our 40th Christmas here and now it’s all gone,” Ms Williams added.


The intense heat finished pottery that would normally require a kiln. (ABC News)

Crews made the most of milder conditions, clearing fallen trees and assessing damaged buildings for unstable walls and asbestos.

Power remains out for thousands on the South Coast and is likely to remain down for some days.

Phone and internet communication is patchy and petrol is still in limited supply with long queues seen at many service stations.

Locals in the Eurobodalla Shire were told to start boiling their tap water after supplies were boosted straight from the river.

Premier denies turning down help

Earlier, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian denied turning down Australian Defence Force (ADF) help with emergency evacuations.

At least 60 properties were destroyed at the weekend while a 47-year-old man was killed in the Dunns Road fire near Batlow.

Ms Berejiklian said NSW was in “uncharted territory”.

A report at the weekend claimed the NSW Government had not taken up an offer of ADF help.

Video: RFS Commissioner says no offers of assistance have been knocked back.

(ABC News)

When that was put to Ms Berejiklian at a press conference on Monday morning she responded: “Not true, not true.”

Meanwhile, Mr Fitzsimmons said: “The answer is simply no.”

“There has been no offer of assistance that I’m aware of that we haven’t accepted.

“If these rumours or these messages keep going around, I would simply ask [what] was the offer of assistance that we rejected? Because I’m certainly not aware of any.”

Ms Berejiklian said her Government had “left no stone unturned” when it came to securing resources for firefighting efforts.

“Every single decision that our team in NSW has taken has been the right call, and we’ve accepted all appropriate offers that have been made and will continue to do so.”


A wood chip mill burns in Eden, where the the HMAS Adelaide has been deployed. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)

Stay across our bushfire coverage:

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

NSW fires likened to ‘atomic bomb’, Sydney records hottest day ever


Authorities are bracing for more property losses following another destructive bushfire day in which temperature records were broken.

Key points:

  • A “volatile” wind change is making its way up the NSW coast
  • Residents in parts of the state’s south are being urged to take shelter
  • Premier Gladys Berejiklian said NSW was “yet to hit the worst of it”

Weary fire crews worked well into the night battling blazes fanned by a predicted southerly change that swept up the east coast, hitting parts of Sydney around 10:00pm.

During the worst of the day there were 13 emergency warnings across the state, while the mercury in Penrith, in Sydney’s west, reached 48.9 degrees Celsius — a new record temperature for the Sydney Basin.

NSW residents were urged to reduce their power usage after bushfires took out transmitters in the Snowy Mountains.

Latest RFS bushfire update

The NSW Rural Fire Service has received preliminary reports of at least 15 properties lost across the fire grounds — including in the towns of Batlow and Talbingo in the NSW Snowy Mountains, and in Manyana on the South Coast.

Fire and Rescue NSW said it responded to reports of 20 people trapped at the caravan park in nearby Bendalong and was able to free them after extinguishing fires in three homes in the suburb.


Firefighters battle a blaze at Numbugga, about 15 kilometres from Bega. (ABC News)

But Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said he expected more.

“Some [firefighters] are reporting at least 15 properties alight in some locations [today],” he said.

“We just don’t have that intelligence at the moment.

“The focus really is on moving resources around, trying to save and protect what we can and deal with what is unfolding and fast-moving fires still occurring down in that south eastern quadrant.”


Fire burns at North Bendalong on the NSW South Coast. (Supplied)

Late into the night, Eden on the Far South Coast came under threat from fires across the border in Victoria. The Southern Highlands towns of Wingello, Penrose and Bundanoon were also threatened by fire.

Many seeking shelter at the Bundanoon oval received a police escort into Bowral and Mittagong.

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said preliminary reports suggested fire was sitting about 2 kilometres west of Kangaroo Valley.

He said while the southerly change would see temperatures plummet by up to 20 degrees Celsius on Sunday, steady winds and bone dry fuel loads meant fire crews could not be complacent.

While crews battled blazes across the state, emergency services responded to reports in the southern NSW town of Cooma of the collapse a 4.5 million-litre water reservoir, with one woman suffering a minor injury.

Police said water flowed through the town’s streets, with water damage to houses and vehicles, including one car that was swept 800 metres down the road.


A bushfire approaches Cambewarra. (Supplied: Glenn Tyson)

Earlier, Commissioner Fitzsimmons warned the southerly change would bring “volatile” winds of around 80 kph.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said there hadn’t been any reports of lives lost but it was a “very volatile situation”.


A fire comes dangerously close to a home in Berrara. (ABC News)


Bega in darkness at 6:18pm as smoke fills the sky. (ABC News: Phil Williams)

The Princes Highway, that connects Sydney and Adelaide, remained closed in both directions near Jervis Bay and drivers in some places were warned to avoid all non-essential travel.

The RFS warned a fire-generated thunderstorm had formed over one fire in the Snowy Monaro area creating a “very dangerous situation”.


The South Coast towns of Bendalong and Manyana have been impacted by fire. (Ingleside Rural Fire Brigade)

‘It’s very scary’

New South Wales Transport Minister and Member for Bega, Andrew Constance — who has been defending his home against ember attacks — compared the South Coast fires to “an atomic bomb”.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, this isn’t a bushfire, it’s an atomic bomb,” he told ABC Radio Sydney.

“It’s indescribable the hell it’s caused and the devastation it’s caused.”

Darcy Lay said the Bega Valley town of Bermagui was like a ghost town and the colour of the sky was “terrifying”.

“Getting told to move from Bermagui so quickly and anxiously, in a panic, it’s very scary. We really need a lot more done about these fires down here,” Mr Lay said.


Brothers Darcy and Jasper Lay say they’re feeling the stress of fires in Bermagui. (ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

He said it wasn’t smart to stay there, particularly if emergency services were moving out.

“The heat is just going to be too immense … it’s just not realistic to be in a town where the heat and the smoke is going to absolutely pummel and plume the town.”

He said they hadn’t had power in a week.

Video: Smoke fills the sky abover Batemans Bay, while in a supermarket shelves sit empty

(ABC News)

“We’ve lost thousands of dollars’ worth of stock,” he said.

“Stock is replaceable. Houses are replaceable. Lives are not replaceable.”

Julianne Domeny fled to Batemans Bay with her two daughters, mother-in-law, a friend and her sons, leaving their husbands to protect their Broulee homes.

“We have been at Broulee since the New Year’s fires hit and we saw a ball of fire coming straight at us,” she said.

“We thought we were completely prepared for that … but seeing the devastation, after that, we prepared everything.”

The NSW death toll since the start of the bushfire season is 17, including eight since Monday and at least 449 homes destroyed on the South Coast since New Year’s Eve.


A family awaiting a community meeting in Narooma on the NSW far south coast. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)

Stay across our bushfire coverage:

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

NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott labels his absence during bushfires ‘inexcusable’


NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott, who went on a European holiday during the ongoing bushfire crisis, has labelled his absence “inexcusable”.

Key points:

  • Mr Elliott said he “should have put [his] RFS family first”
  • NSW is in a State of Emergency, bracing for catastrophic conditions on Saturday
  • The NSW bushfire death toll rose to 17 on Friday

Mr Elliott had been away in Europe as the bushfires ravaged much of the country and his state of New South Wales.

On Friday night, he tagged himself in a social media post as being at the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and admitted his decision to leave the country for a holiday was not the right one.

“Just received the evening briefing from Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers ahead of tomorrow’s Statewide Total Fire Ban and Extreme Fire Danger,” Mr Elliott posted on his Facebook account.

“My absence over the last week was inexcusable.

“I should have put my RFS family first and foremost given the current conditions [even my own family acknowledge that] and now it’s time to get back to work.”

Mr Elliott went on to say he is most concerned for some of the areas that have already been decimated by the bushfires raging across the state, with catastrophic conditions predicted at the weekend.

“The areas of most concern tomorrow are the South Coast, Wollondilly and Snowy Mountains and we will have 3,000 firefighters in the Area of Operations with a further 600 on standby to be deployed at short notice,” Mr Elliott wrote.


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

“On top of that we have 104 aircraft providing air support to the more than 700 appliances.

“The good news is that after tomorrow’s extreme weather we should have a week of milder conditions which should provide relief to the firefighters and an opportunity to start the process of containment.”

At a press conference on Saturday morning, Mr Elliott was asked if he planned to resign.

“I came back to step up, not step down,” he said.

The RFS had already said that Saturday will be a “bad day”.

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers warned southern areas of New South Wales would be in the most danger.

“It is likely we will see some areas during the day reach the catastrophic forecast, particularly in the southern part of New South Wales,” he said.

“Obviously we are gearing up to that and while it is rated extreme it is in the upper end of extreme and it will be a bad day. Whatever the rating is, it will be pretty bad.”


Much of Cobargo, New South Wales, has been destroyed. (Supplied)

Deputy Commissioner Rogers said authorities were as ready as they would ever be.

“This state of readiness for New South Wales can’t be matched anywhere. We are as ready as we can be,” he said.

The fears for the catastrophic weekend conditions come as the NSW death toll rose to 17 on Friday.

Authorities announced a man had died from injuries he sustained in a fire in the Northern Tablelands last year.

It is believed the 59-year-old man suffered serious burns after taking shelter in a water tank during the Stockyards Flat fire in November.

He was airlifted to the Royal North Shore Hospital for treatment but died on Sunday.

So far since Monday, eight people have died.

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

‘We lost everything’: Couple forced to live out of car with two kids and 13 dogs

Mogo 2536

Navigating an evacuation centre can often be challenging, but Sara and Glenn Gardner are doing it tougher than most.

Key points:

  • Sara and Glenn Gardner evacuated to Batemans Bay
  • Mr Gardner said Tuesday’s fires were “hell”
  • Ms Gardner said she has been trying to get help for her dogs without success

The couple’s home in Mogo, on the NSW South Coast, was destroyed in the New Year’s Eve fires.

Since then, they’ve been living out of their car and a swag with their two daughters and 13 dogs.

Their home was one of over 400 destroyed on the South Coast since New Year’s Eve.

Fires tore through the small town of Mogo, destroying numerous buildings.

Eight people have been killed by fires in NSW since New Year’s Eve.

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

Hundreds of animals had to be saved at Mogo Zoo with one staff member taking monkeys and a red panda home.

Ms Gardner said her family had lost everything — except their pets — in the blaze.

“We’ve lost our home, we’ve lost everything except for what we’ve got here, it’s just been horrendous,” she said.

“We’ve got nine dogs with us and four puppies, our two girls and we’ve got our health.”.


This puppy, named Raccoon, is one of the Gardiners’ 13 dogs. (ABC News: Timothy Swanston)

The family is receiving help from the Batemans Bay evacuation centre.

“Stormy and Bear are chained up outside, Lucky stays with us and she roams around the car.

“We’ve got two more dogs in [the car] with four puppies and in the swag over there, there’s two more dogs,” Ms Gardner said.

“There’s one in there with my eldest daughter and one there with my youngest daughter.”


Ms Gardner said her family lost everything except the dogs in the blaze. (ABC News: Timothy Swanston)

Ms Gardner said she was thinking about putting the dogs in a pen to help lift the spirits of other evacuees.

But, she said it’s been difficult getting help with all her animals.

“We’ve been told that there’s assistance out at Moruya, but we’ve also been told that Moruya is being evacuated to here, so we don’t know what’s happening so we’ll just keep the dogs with us,” Ms Gardner said.

Glenn Gardner said Tuesday’s fires were “hell”.

“We were surrounded by fire, I’ve never seen or experienced anything like it,” he said.

“It was horrific, it swept through so fast.

“They’re saying the fire front on Saturday is going to be worse than that, I can’t imagine anything worse.”

RSPCA NSW has urged people not to forget the wellbeing of their pets and other animals.

“If it is uncomfortable for a human to breathe, then it will be uncomfortable for pets too,” Sydney Animal Care Services Manager Sharon Andronicos said.

“If you are home, shut your pets inside the house to limit harm from smoke inhalation and so they are close by to exit with you once the danger has passed.”

More bushfire coverage:

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

Son of fallen firefighter, dummy in mouth, receives his dad’s bravery award: Australia’s bushfire crisis in pictures


As bushfires continue to rage across swathes of Australia, harrowing scenes of apocalyptic red skies have become embedded in the national consciousness.

But for all of the devastation there has also been a resounding resilience, from fire-affected communities through to first responders and those they leave behind.

While the battle is far from over, with authorities warning conditions could worsen into the weekend, these are some of the photos that have captured the heart of the crisis to date.

Fallen firefighter farewelled in moving tribute


A funeral was held for Geoffrey Keaton on Thursday. (NSW RFS)

It was the heart-wrenching moment a young boy, still sucking his pacifier, was forced to farewell his father for the last time.

The son of Geoffrey Keaton, a volunteer firefighter who was tragically killed last month, received a posthumous medal for bravery honouring his dad.

Mr Keaton and his colleague, Andrew O’Dwyer, died when their fire tanker rolled after being hit by a tree in Sydney’s south-west less than a week before Christmas.

Dressed in a miniature Rural Fire Service uniform, little Harvey was awarded a posthumous Commendation for Bravery and Service by RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons at Mr Keaton’s funeral on Thursday.

Child steers family to safety


Allison Marion took the photo of her son, 11-year-old Finn, as they fled the fiery shores of Mallacoota on Tuesday. (Supplied: Via Twitter @Nic_Asher)

The striking image of a young boy steering his family to safety through blood-red skies garnered headlines across the country — and for good reason.

Allison Marion took the photo of her son, 11-year-old Finn, as they fled the fiery shores of Mallacoota on Tuesday.

Ms Marion said she was taking the photo “to record our story for our family”.

But the image has since been shared across news sites and newspapers as a dramatic visual of the impact the fires are having on Australian towns.

Community spirit is alive and well


Erin Lehman managed to keep her kids busy by drawing a thank you sign for the Country Fire Authority (CFA). (Facebook: Erin Lehman)

As emergency services race to save properties across Victoria and New South Wales, and authorities warn conditions could worsen into the weekend, those in fire-affected communities have been quick to show their gratitude.

Mallacoota resident Erin Lehman managed to keep her kids busy by drawing a thank you sign for the Country Fire Authority (CFA), while those in Tahmoor, in New South Wales, left a “little message to all the bombers in the sky”.


A thank you message left for NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers in Tahmoor. (Facebook: Beau Bromley)

“The conditions those pilots are flying in all day and the RFS on the ground you are all legends,” wrote Beau Bromley, who took the photo of a thank you message scrawled across a rooftop.

“And once this is all over [you] deserve more than one beer.”

The story hits closer to home

Matt Roberts, a photographer for the ABC, took these photos of his sister’s property, which was lost in the fires.
(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

ABC photographer Matt Roberts is used to being behind the camera, but he couldn’t have anticipated his family would soon be a part of the story.

While covering the aftermath of the fires in Quaama on New Year’s Day, Roberts discovered the burnt remnants of his sister’s home.

“My kids loved visiting. I found her late today,” he tweeted, alongside before and after shots of the property.

“Her young family is safe but unsure what to do next.”

Emergency services don’t stop for the holidays


Thousands of firefighters and emergency services gave up their holidays to help contain blazes burning across the country. (NSW RFS)

While the vast majority of Australia may have come to a standstill to enjoy the Christmas festivities, fires unfortunately don’t play by the same rules.

Thousands of firefighters and emergency services gave up their holidays to help contain blazes burning across the country.

They appear to have taken the predicament in their stride, however, with one crew from NSW opting for a chainsaw instead of a knife to cut a gingerbread house.

Australia’s wildlife fights to survive


A kookaburra perching on the burnt remains of a tree attracted viral attention last month. (NSW RFS via Adam Stevenson)

Australia’s fauna may be renowned around the globe, but it’s made headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks.

The striking image of a kangaroo fleeing from a burning house was front page news in the United Kingdom, while a kookaburra perching on the burnt remains of a tree attracted viral attention last month.

“My last day of the decade felt like the apocalypse,” photographer Matthew Abbott, who captured the kangaroo’s escape, tweeted on Wednesday.

“Been covering the Australian bushfires for the last 6 weeks, but haven’t seen anything like yesterday’s fire that decimated the town of Conjola, NSW.”

The striking image of a kangaroo fleeing from a burning house was front page news in the United Kingdom.
(The Guardian)

More bushfire coverage:

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

‘It will be a bad day’: RFS warns catastrophic fire conditions could hit NSW

Bega 2550

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) says tomorrow will be a “bad day” with bushfire conditions expected to reach catastrophic levels.

Key points:

  • The total number of confirmed dead in NSW this bushfire season is 17
  • At least three volunteer firefighters were killed in the past two weeks while battling blazes
  • The latest stocktake of destruction comes amid mass evacuations on the NSW South Coast

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers today warned southern areas of New South Wales would be in most danger.

“It is likely we will see some areas during the day reach the catastrophic forecast, particularly in the southern part of New South Wales,” Deputy Commissioner Rogers said.

“Obviously we are gearing up to that and while it is rated extreme it is in the upper end of extreme and it will be a bad day. Whatever the rating is, it will be a pretty bad.”

Deputy Commissioner Rogers said authorities are as ready as they will ever be.

“This state of readiness for New South Wales can’t be matched anywhere. We are as ready as we can be,” he said.

Death toll now at 17, nearly 500 homes lost over New Year period

The NSW bushfire death toll has now risen to 17, after authorities announced a man had died from injuries he sustained in a fire in the Northern Tablelands last year.

It is believed the 59-year-old man suffered serious burns after taking shelter in a water tank during the Stockyards Flat fire in November.

He was airlifted to the Royal North Shore Hospital for treatment but died on Sunday.

So far since Monday, eight people have died.

That toll includes a man whose body was found at Belowra in the state’s south yesterday.

The body has not been formally identified, however, it is believed to be that of a 72-year-old who was missing in the area.

The RFS also confirmed 449 homes had been destroyed on the South Coast since New Year’s Eve.

This takes the total number of properties destroyed this fire season to 1,365, with 501 homes damaged.

The RFS said more than 9,000 homes were saved by the efforts of firefighters across the state.


Tourists and residents on the NSW South Coast were still evacuating ahead of dangerous weekend forecasts. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)

However, these figures remain conservative while firefighters and emergency services continue to lead mass evacuations out of the state’s South Coast.

Following the extensive losses, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today announced the appointment of a recovery coordinator for Southern NSW.

Mr Dick Adams retired as a Deputy Commissioner after 35 years in the NSW Police Force and was a former State Emergency Operations Controller who led the bushfire recovery efforts in Wyong, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens in 2013.

Ms Berejiklian said while damage assessments were ongoing it was clear many properties had been destroyed and Mr Adams’s appointment to the role would “ensure recovery operations begin as soon as possible”.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said earlier this week authorities were having difficulty accessing isolated communities where there was only access by one road.


Robert and Patrick Salway, died defending their property near Cobargo. (Supplied)

Yesterday, the NSW Police confirmed three more bodies were found at the Conjola region where bushfires razed at least 89 properties.

And on Wednesday, the RFS confirmed a father and son died defending their property in Cobargo.

Patrick Salway, 29, and his father Robert, 63, had stayed behind at their family home on Monday night as the fire approached.

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

Mr McPaul was the third volunteer firefighter to die while battling fires in NSW in less than two weeks.


RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and Harvey Keaton, whose firefighter father died last year. (Twitter: NSW Rural Fire Service)

Two young fathers, Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer, were killed after their truck was struck by a tree south-west of Sydney.

An emotional funeral was held for Mr Keaton yesterday in Minchinbury, which was also attended by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Commissioner Fitzsimmons gave a commendation medal for bravery to Mr Keaton’s 19-month-old son, Harvey.

The toddler continued to suck on his dummy while the Commissioner pinned it to his child-sized RFS uniform.

More bushfire coverage:

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

Lull before storm as evacuations continue ahead of horror weekend: As it happened


A state of emergency has been declared in NSW and a state of disaster is in place in Victoria as both states brace for what are expected to be very dangerous bushfire conditions this weekend.

Look back at how the day unfolded.

External Link:

Live: Bushfire emergency updates

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

Hot air to hang around for longer before Saturday’s dangerous wind change


Firefighters and communities left devastated by bushfires this week will be given a reprieve by cooler weather today, ahead of “unprecedented” conditions on Saturday.

Key points:

  • New South Wales is facing a “very dangerous day” for bushfires on Saturday
  • Victorians have been warned conditions on Saturday are likely to be worse than on New Year’s Eve
  • A total fire ban applies for NSW and a seven-day state of emergency has been declared

Thursday’s cool change will continue today as firefighters prepare for a “dangerous day” tomorrow.

Soaring temperatures and strong winds on Saturday mean conditions could be worse than those that fanned deadly blazes on New Year’s Eve, NSW and Victoria authorities are warning.

Blazes on the NSW South Coast have claimed seven lives, while in Victoria’s East Gippsland region two people have died and 17 are unaccounted for as several major fires continue to rage.

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) says Saturday’s danger zones will cover a broader geographical area, dominating the south-east corner of the state, where the most destructive fires have already struck.

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

“We are expecting the conditions on Saturday to see temperatures in the low to mid 40s,” RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said.

“It’s going to be a very dangerous day, it’s going to be a very difficult day.”


Exhausted firefighters have been battling dozens of blazes across NSW amid a heatwave. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

A state-wide total fire ban applies in NSW on Friday and Saturday, and a seven-day state of emergency has been declared.

South Coast towns that have already been hit by fires could again come under threat, according to RFS spokesperson Cathie Moore.

“If it’s an area that the fire may not have burnt through previously when it came through and it’s still got vegetation there, there is always that potential with the wind shift that a fire could come back through,” she said.

Ms Moore said since July last year, when the fire season began early, more than 3.6 million hectares of land had been scorched — more than the last three years’ seasons combined.

Closer to Sydney, the Grose Valley and Green Wattle Creek fires are another concern on Saturday because of their proximity to urban areas.

Both of those fires have previously broken containment lines and crews have been using a reprieve in the conditions to strengthen defences.


Saturday’s heatwave will bring difficult conditions across the country. (ABC News: Mary Lloyd)

In Victoria, Emergency Management Victoria’s Deputy Commissioner, Deb Abbott, warned the state had “very, very deep and quite serious challenges ahead” that were “quite unprecedented” as the East Gippsland crisis continued.

The state’s Country Fire Authority (CFA) has been attempting to remove remaining fuel around existing blazes with backburning operations, including at Clifton Creek, as the flames move south.

But incident controller Andy Gillham says every community lying to the south and south-east of the Bairnsdale fire zones will be under threat, regardless of whether the fires have already approached their towns.

“All of the communities need to be well prepared for the weather that’s coming,” he said.

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.

According to Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Jonathan How, Saturday’s conditions differ because the southerly wind change will sweep through NSW much later than it did on New Year’s Eve.

“It does mean there is more time for the landscape to really heat up,” he said.

“With that change coming through later it could coincide with peak heating around 5:00pm or 6:00pm for the South Coast. That would mean a very dangerous fire day right up until the evening for many communities.”

The bureau predicts winds will arrive in Gippsland by early Saturday afternoon before moving through the NSW South Coast, not reaching Sydney until midnight.

“We could see wind gusts in excess of 100 kilometres per hour on exposed coastal locations,” Mr How said.

“It’s going to be very dangerous before and after the change.”


People seek refuge at Mallacoota Wharf as bushfires close in on the town on New Year’s Eve. (Instagram: @travelling_aus_family)

Authorities have already stressed the need for people to leave the regions of most concern, including an enormous stretch of NSW coastline from Bateman’s Bay to the Victorian border, Mount Kosciuszko National Park, and in the Victorian Alpine areas and East Gippsland.

Victorians warned ‘dangerous day’ ahead

Mr How warned Victorians to prepare for a “dangerous day” on Saturday, with conditions likely to be as bad or even worse than those experienced on New Year’s Eve.

“There could be a repeat of Tuesday’s conditions … these impacts will continue to go on for the next few weeks and unfortunately there’s just not much rain in the outlook,” he said.

“It’s looking like a very dangerous day on Saturday, particularly for those in Gippsland and the north-east of the state.”

Fire-ravaged Mallacoota in Victoria’s far east is forecast to reach a top of 42 degrees Celsius with “very strong” northerly winds which will push the fire danger into the extreme rating.

Fire danger is also forecast to be extreme in the state’s Mallee and northern county.

Mr How said dry lightning strikes had sparked a number of new fires earlier this week, therefore increasing the broader fire risk.

More bushfire coverage:

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

Fires will close roads and isolate more towns in Victoria’s north-east, authorities warn


Emergency services have warned a large region of north-eastern Victoria faces an unprecedented bushfire risk over the coming two days, as the window of opportunity for people to leave threatens to close.

Key points:

  • Authorities are urging people to evacuate a large area of north-eastern Victoria
  • A state of disaster has been declared
  • For the latest bushfire information, visit the Vic Emergency website

The vast area stretches from fire-ravaged Corryong in the north-east and comes close to the outskirts of Wangaratta in the west, taking in Bright, Harrietville and the Alpine ski towns of Mount Hotham, Falls Creek and Mount Buller.

Late on Thursday night, Premier Daniel Andrews declared a state of disaster, warning the fires posed an “unprecedented risk to life and property”.

Notices to evacuate were issued for towns in the area on Friday morning, ahead of extreme weather “creating fire storm conditions, which may not be survivable”.


Existing fires are proving to be unpredictable in Victoria’s north-east.

Residents were told it might be too late to leave after midday, at which time they should shelter indoors to protect themselves from any fire that might arrive.

Authorities warned the area was expected to be impacted by fire, spot fires and ember attacks that are likely to close major roads, leaving communities isolated.

“If you do not leave today you may become isolated and your route to safer locations may be blocked,” Emergency Management Victoria warned.

These text messages were sent to everyone in the Upper Ovens Valley and Kiewa Valley.
(ABC News)

The area at most risk includes:

  • Ovens Valley including Mt Hotham, Dinner Plain, Harrietville, Wandiligong
  • Upper Murray including Walwa, Tintaldra, Towong, Upper Towong, Thowgla, Tom Groggin, Biggara, Bunroy, Nariel Valley, Lucyvale, Berringama, Shelley, Koetong, Bullioh, Tallangatta Valley
  • Mount Buller
  • King Valley including Dandongadale, and Upper King Area including Whitfield

Authorities urged people to seek shelter in large, built-up centres like Wangaratta, Albury Wodonga or further afield.

Temperatures will continue to climb over the next two days, with Albury Wodonga expecting up to 45 degrees Celsius and strong winds.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jonathan How warned Victorians to prepare for a “dangerous day” on Saturday, with conditions likely to be as bad or even worse than those experienced on New Year’s Eve.

“There could be a repeat of Tuesday’s conditions … these impacts will continue to go on for the next few weeks and unfortunately there’s just not much rain in the outlook,” he said.

“It’s looking like a very dangerous day on Saturday, particularly for those in Gippsland and the north-east of the state.”


A number of fires in Victoria’s north-east are expected to flare up during Saturday’s dangerous fire conditions. (Supplied: Amber Rendell)

Mr Boatman said a wind charge was not expected to arrive in the north-east until mid-afternoon on Saturday, allowing fires to build up during the hotter part of the day.

“You bring this south-westerly wind change into the mix which changes the direction of the fires, so there is the potential for long-range spotting and there is the potential for these fires to expand quite significantly,” Mr Boatman said.

All forests and parks in the area are closed to the public and a total fire ban is in place.

Relief centres:

  • Corryong High School, 27-45 Towong Road, Corryong
  • Tallangatta Memorial Hall
  • Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre, 33-37 Ford Street
  • The Cube at Wodonga
  • An animal relief centre at Wangaratta Showgrounds, Golf Links Lane

Major road closures:

  • The Murray Valley Highway, from Bullioh to Corryong
  • Benambra-Corryong Road from Benambra to Murray Valley Highway (Colac Colac)
  • Murray River Road from Granya to Tintaldra
  • Cudgewa-Tintaldra Road from Murray Valley Highway to Murray River Road
  • Shelley-Walwa Road from Murray Valley Highway to Walwa
  • Mount Buffalo Road within Mt Buffalo National Park
  • Monaro Highway from Cann River to the NSW border
  • Great Alpine Road from Doctors Flat to Bruthen (residents access only)

Yesterday, local fire authorities in Tallangatta said there was a serious concern that the extreme weather conditions over the next few days could cause the Corryong fire to merge with the East Gippsland blaze to the south, and with fires in the Victorian Alpine region around Bright.

Local incident controller Leith McKenzie said crews were also keeping a close eye on the fire burning across the border in New South Wales, which had gone through areas close to Tumbarumba.

Mr McKenzie said if the Corryong and NSW fires burned as predicted, they could “suck each other in” and merge as well.

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

Thousands flee fire zone as south-east braces for horror weekend: As it happened


Thousands of people are on the move amid warnings Saturday will bring a repeat of the deadly New Year’s Eve firestorms in East Gippsland and NSW’s South Coast. A state of emergency will come into force in NSW tomorrow morning.

Look back at how the day unfolded.

External Link:

Live: Bushfire emergency updates

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

Rescuers battle to reach cut-off Victorian communities before weekend weather hits

Melbourne 3000

Firefighters, police and the army are making extraordinary efforts to bring relief to thousands of Victorians cut off by bushfires, as they brace for extreme weekend weather which could see huge bushfires merge in the state’s east and north-east.

Key points:

The huge bushfire that struck Mallacoota is one of several destructive blazes still burning in East Gippsland, and another massive fire continues to rage near Corryong, close to the New South Wales-Victoria border.

A large navy ship has arrived at Mallacoota, where fire authorities said about 500 people could be evacuated today, as they urge people in other parts of East Gippsland to get out before conditions worsen on the weekend.

At Corryong, in Victoria’s north-east, a convoy of over 120 vehicles travelled out of the fire zone last night — more than double the number of vehicles expected.

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


A CFA strike team arrived in Cann River yesterday ahead of worsening conditions on the weekend. (Facebook: Joe Stephens)

Late yesterday, six patients were flown out of Mallacoota on an Australian Defence Force Black Hawk helicopter to the RAAF base in East Sale.

About a dozen smaller communities have been isolated and are running short on supplies including the town of Cann River in far eastern Victoria.


Cann River was cut off and communications remained difficult as the fire closed in on Wednesday. (Facebook: Sherylle Holster)

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said work was underway to drop satellite phones, food and water into those communities.

But smoke and the dynamic fire situation was making it difficult.

“I know it seems quite simple to do an air drop into some of these communities, but if visibility is poor and you’ve got other aircraft that are still fighting the fire, it is very, very complex,” he said.

“We wish it was much more simple, but it isn’t.”

Video: "We need farming help": Residents devastated by fires in Victoria's north-east

(ABC News)

Red Cross relief packages, including food, water and other basics will be dropped into Cann River today.

Police officer drives through flames to help Genoa

The tiny community of Genoa, which is nestled in far eastern Victoria near the New South Wales border, has also been cut off by fire.

CFA chief officer Steve Warrington said they actually spoke to authorities in New South Wales to try to get some fire trucks in from the other side of the border.

Video: CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington says authorities are working to rescue thousands of Victorians trapped by bushfires.

(ABC News)

A police officer responded by driving 60 kilometres through the bushfires to reach the town, he said.

“A New South Wales police officer drove from Eden through the fire to get into Genoa to provide a bit of leadership into that community,” he said.

Emergency officials are trying to encourage more people to leave the fire zone before the bad weather on the weekend.

The message is clear: if you’re in a remote community anywhere near the fires, get out early.

As I waited on the Mallacoota foreshore, I felt helpless
Gus Goswell recounts the moment he and his family prepared to enter the water as a fire roared towards them like “a freight train” on New Year’s Eve.

Authorities said they were concerned they would not be able to get to these towns if they were cut off.

“Every community that is lying to the south and south-east of the Bairnsdale complex of fires is under threat,” Deputy Emergency Management Commissioner Chris Stephenson said.

“We’ll offer the opportunity to get as many people out as we can into a more comfortable place, however logistically that’s quite a challenge.

“The best options are to be in a major centre where you have the services and the things you require for your family’s welfare.”

Concerns fires around Corryong, East Gippsland could merge

At Corryong, officials are door knocking as many properties as possible warning residents to get out.

Work is being done to get generators up and operating but communications and power are still in the area.


Burnt trees on the way into Corryong, in north-eastern Victoria. (ABC News: Ashlee Charlton)

Numerous road blocks, including along the Murray Valley Highway, remain in place.

The big threat is that the hot weather forecast for the next few days could cause the Corryong fire to merge with the East Gippsland blaze to the south and a fire in the Victorian alpine region around Bright.

Crews are also keeping an eye on the fire burning across the border in New South Wales, which has gone through areas close to Tumbarumba.

Video: A father and daughter defend their home against an ember attack at Goongerah, Victoria.

(ABC News)

Incident controller Leith McKenzie said if the Corryong and NSW fires burned as predicted, the could “suck each other in” and merge as well.

Animal welfare officers are going through the fire damaged area.

It is estimated 12,000 cattle and 6,000 sheep survived the fire but will have to be put down due to burns and other injuries.

Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB) building assessors are checking properties in the region.

So far, around 12 homes have been lost in Cudgewa, west of Corryong.

Fears number of missing people will rise

One man is unaccounted for at this stage.

It is understood he left the Corryong relief centre in the early hours of the morning to check on his property but as of 10:30am, he hadn’t been heard from.

The fires have claimed at least one life — Buchan resident Mick Roberts, who was being remembered as a community “hero”.

At least three other people are unaccounted for across the state, but Premier Daniel Andrews warned that number was likely to rise.

Authorities have said the full scale of the damage may take days or weeks to assess.

Video: Footage revealed the extent of the destruction in Mallacoota.

(ABC News)

Country Fire Authority State Agency Commander Tony O’Day said authorities are working to access cut-off towns, where firefighters and combat agencies were also isolated.

Communities across the state’s east, where more than 500,000 hectares have been burnt, remain cut off and are running low on supplies.

“[There’s] no power, no water in many of them [the towns], but just the conditions are just too hot, too dangerous,” Mr O’Day said.

“There’ll be extensive work before most of these roads can be opened to be safe enough.”


The scene in Mallacoota in East Gippsland on New Year’s Day. (Facebook: Claire George)

While conditions eased yesterday, Mr O’Day said this morning the fires were “by no means contained or controlled”.

Emergency authorities are working to set up containment lines before the weather heats up again tomorrow, and winds are forecast to pick up and create dangerous fire conditions again by Saturday.

Video: Much-needed water and relief supplies reached Mallacoota by boat on Wednesday.

(ABC News)

“And just the large, the sheer scale of some of these fires … the scale of them makes the task of containing them and building control lines incredibly difficult,” Mr O’Day said.

“Unfortunately these fires will continue to burn for the foreseeable future.”

More bushfire coverage:

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

Why is swearing still illegal when most of us do it?


Is it ever OK to swear? Yes. Swearing can be quite acceptable when delivered to drive home a particular point to a specific audience, enhance a comedic presentation, or deal with pain.

I am sure, in that last context, that midwives and partners have heard it all, many times over. And no-one would begrudge the delivering mother that opportunity.

But in my experience, the use of profanity is usually gratuitous, repeatedly designed to offend and, to my mind, frequently just a sign of laziness in speech.

In fact, when delivered to an unsuspecting group, especially where children are present, it can amount to a criminal offence.

So what does the law say about letting fly with a few well-chosen expletives?

Don’t say f*** in front of children

Public profanity is an offence in every jurisdiction in Australia. The South Australian Summary Offences Act is one good example of this type of prohibition:

A person who uses indecent or profane language or sings any indecent or profane song or ballad in a public place; or in a police station; or which is audible from a public place; or which is audible in neighbouring or adjoining occupied premises; or with intent to offend or insult any person is guilty of an offence. Maximum penalty $250.

But context is everything. Saying “f***” in front of families at the local sports ground would likely lead to a fine if someone complained to the local police. But the same words used by a comedian at a performance for paying patrons later that night will incur no such sanctioning.

External Link:

Kevin Rudd knows the power of a few choice expletives.

Anyone who has regularly attended live theatre in the past decade, or who watches late night television or listens to late night radio, would know that, over the years, the use of profane language has become widespread.

Indeed, language is forever evolving. Words that used to be uttered sparingly are now deployed in media conversations as a matter of course. They’re subject to “language warnings” informed by the various radio and television codes of conduct, with television codes being particularly cognisant of the likelihood of children viewers.

Norm and Ahmed

Any modern history of the law of profanity in Australia must begin with the story of Alex Buzo’s 1968 play, “Norm and Ahmed“, which was destined to be seen only by adult audiences.

In the play, Buzo presents racial prejudice as profoundly irrational in the behaviour of ordinary Australians. The play script originally ended with the line “f***in’ boong”. For its debut production in 1968, “f***in'” became “bloody”. But the following year in Brisbane, Buzo’s original line was used.

External Link:

Norm and Ahmed was destined to be seen only by adult audiences.

After one performance, Norman Staines, the actor who said the line, was arrested. But it was not the use of the dreadful racial slur that had attracted the attention of the two police who mounted the stage, but rather the use of the word that preceded it.

The magistrate’s conviction of Staines was later overturned by the Supreme Court of Queensland on the grounds the word was not obscene in the context of the play. The High Court later agreed.

There is little doubt the judgements of these courts set a precedent. Swearing was now acceptable if employed in the context of adult entertainment.

Racist arrests

There are some interesting socio-legal writings on this subject, too. Criminologist Paul Wilson discovered in the NSW outback town of Moree in the late 1970s that the police were using the word “f***” liberally in their banter with each other, while regularly arresting Aboriginal men in the street for using the same word on the basis it was “offensive”.

Wilson concluded from his research experience that rule-makers are often the most flagrant rule-breakers.

What’s more, practising criminal lawyers know police regularly use the offensive language law to give them the widest possible range of excuses to arrest someone giving them grief.

It’s difficult to say how many people today around Australia are charged with using offensive, profane or insulting language in any one year, but you could safely surmise it’s in the thousands.


Danny Lim was charged over this sign, but a Sydney judge ruled it was not offensive. (ABC RN: Tiger Webb)

What we can say from evidence in NSW is that Indigenous people, who comprise 3 per cent of the population, make up approximately one-third of those charged and taken to court on account of their use of language deemed by police to be offensive.

More recently, in 2015, a political activist wore a sandwich board sign that linked former Prime Minister Tony Abbott with the “c” word. The activist was arrested and charged with offensive conduct.

The matter then wound its way through the courts. Two years later, magistrate Jacqueline Milledge concluded the law was concerned with what would offend the “hypothetical reasonable person”, saying:

It’s not someone who is thin-skinned, who is easily offended […] It’s someone who can ride out some of the crudities of life. [The sign is] provocative and cheeky but it is not offensive.

So where does all of this leave us? Can we use profanities?

Yes, of course, but one should choose one’s audience carefully, lest the long arm of the law take an interest in our public utterances.

Rick Sarre is a professor of law and criminal justice at the University of South Australia. This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

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

National forecast update: Yet more dangerous fire conditions on the way

Adelaide 5000

With another cold front on the way, the end of the week looks set to bring more challenging conditions to fire grounds in Australia’s south-east.

Key Points

  • Fire danger is set to ramp up again at the end of this week, with hot weather forecast for SA, the ACT, NSW and Victoria
  • Rain is expected to fall over parts of WA, and it’s hoped a hot air mass over the centre will begin to disperse
  • More promising is the Indian Ocean Dipole’s return to neutrality, but forecasts don’t show any strong trend towards rain

The front, currently impacting Western Australia’s south-west coast, will drag down hot air from the centre as it moves across the country, increasing temperatures and fire danger in the south-east into the weekend.

There is also likely to be rainfall in northern and central WA, and the potential for some of the hot air mass that has been lurking over central Australia for the past few months to be cleared out.

Early next week there is a chance of a sprinkling of rain over the east coast, but the coast is only tipped to receive about 10 millimetres, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

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

External Link:

BOM provides an update about the elevated fire danger

“Ten millimetres isn’t a particularly significant amount of rainfall, so it is unlikely to do any significant contribution in terms of easing the conditions,” senior climatologist Agata Imielska said.

“Right now there isn’t really any significant rainfall on the forecast that would either ease the fires or the drought conditions we’ve been experiencing for quite some time.”

The bad news

The current reprieve from the worst of the heatwave and fire conditions in the south-east will be short.

The west has gotten the heat first with catastrophic fire danger forecast for the Goldfields region on Thursday and temperatures reaching well over 40C in the state’s south-east.

What makes a horror fire danger day?
Australia is experiencing horrendous fire weather. Find out why and what to watch out for.

South Australia will be next, with six districts expected to experience extreme fire danger conditions on Friday.

Adelaide is forecast to reach 42C on Friday, while Bordertown, in the state’s south-east, is also set to peak at 42C.

Meanwhile, in the state’s north, Oodnadatta is forecast to get up to 47C.

But the heat is not forecast to linger long, with the temperature in Adelaide expected to plummet to a maximum of 25C on Saturday.

Southern and eastern Victoria are also expected to be hot on Friday, and the heat will extend into Saturday for the north-west of the state.

The mercury will push 39C in Bairnsdale, while Mallacoota, in fire-ravaged East Gippsland, will hit 41C on Saturday.

Saturday will also bring dangerous conditions for NSW, with a wind change coming up the coast in much the same way as the change that came through on New Years Eve.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has declared a tourist leave zone along the South Coast, from the Victorian border to Batemans Bay.

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

Sydney city is forecast to miss out on the worst of the heat, but Penrith, in Western Sydney, is forecast to get up to 45C on Saturday.

Canberra is expected to swelter through a 42C day on Saturday.

The good news

It is still a long way our so don’t get your hopes up too much but there is rain forecast for the south east-early next week. Bigger totals are expected for Western Australia over the next few days.
(Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology )

Luke Huntington, duty forecaster at the BOM in WA, said northern Australia is expected to get their usual showers and thunderstorms over the next few days, with totals increasing inland on Friday and into Saturday.

“We will see increased moisture from just offshore from the Kimberley Coast,” Mr Huntington said.

“That’ll be dragged along the mainland later in the week.

“It looks like on the Saturday there will be a rain band stretching from the Kimberly right through until the Eucla region and that’ll cool the air through that region.”

The science behind deadly spinning fires
Yes fires can spin. Because having flames, embers, bushfire thunderstorms and lightning isn’t enough, fires can also generate tornadoes and supercell thunderstorms.

There is also a cold air mass expected to move over the south of the state on Friday, which will get pushed up into central parts of the state by a strong ridge of high pressure with south-easterly winds.

Mr Huntington said that should also help to flush out the hot air.

“Without that hot air in that region we are unlikely to see any of those really hot temperatures … at least for the next couple of weeks, before that hot air could build up once again.”

It is not looking like NSW, SA or Queensland will get that sort of reprieve, but at this point something is better than nothing — and there is other good news.

IOD finally backing off
External Link:

Understanding the Indian Ocean Dipole

The last year has been hounded by one of the strongest positive Indian Ocean Dipoles (IOD) on record, but it returned to neutral territory this week.

Usually the IOD breaks down as the monsoon approaches the Northern Territory in early December, but better late than never.

“[The return to neutrality] will contribute to less of a warm air mass over the state,” Mr Huntington said.

External Link:

Andrew Watkins Tweet

“With that breaking down, we typically get the increased rainfall and perhaps the monsoon trough eventually beginning to form over the northern part of the state.”

Despite the monsoon still not having begun, things are starting to look decidedly more tropical up north.

“Some of the guidance is going for increased rainfall over that northern part of [Western Australia] and perhaps a tropical low may form over the weekend and into early next week,” he said.

“We may also see an increased risk of a tropical cyclone — at this stage it’s pretty uncertain, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

With the positive IOD gone and Australia’s other major climate drivers also forecast to remain neutral, the rainfall outlook over the next few months does not show any strong trend towards wetter or drier conditions.

This map is looking decidedly less brown than it has in recent months.
(Supplied: BOM)

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

Canberra chokes through hazardous smoke, as ACT records worst-ever air quality

Canberra 2600

As south-eastern Australia continues to burn amid the bushfire crisis, smoke has crossed the Tasman to shroud New Zealand, and Canberra has recorded unprecedented smoke pollution.

Key points:

  • Canberra’s air quality index is 23 times the hazardous rating, rivalling some of the worst in the world
  • Heavy smoke from the NSW and Vic bushfires is also blanketing New Zealand
  • The ACT Government says it is the worst air quality ever recorded in Canberra

Canberrans woke up to a new year with air quality more than 22 times the hazardous rating.

Smoke from the NSW South Coast bushfires blanketed the capital overnight, with Canberra’s south the hardest hit.

The 2:00pm air quality index reading in the ACT’s southern station at Monash was 4,650 — more than 23 times the hazardous level of 200.

But the poor conditions did not stop at the border. Many parts of south-eastern Australia are also blanketed in smoke as fires rage on across NSW and Victoria.


Satellite imagery showing the south-east drift of smoke from Australia to New Zealand. (Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology )

In Batemans Bay, where hundreds of homes and structures are believed to have been lost, the concentration of smoke particles in the air was nearly double that of Canberra.

External Link:

Getrochelle "his is smoke from the fires in Australia. Since the rain began the smell has become worse. If you have ever been in a burnt or smoke damaged building, that’s what it reminds me of out there today"

Goulburn, to Canberra’s north, also suffered poor air quality overnight with the air quality index hitting 2,075 at its worst.

NSW Health has set up special air quality monitoring stations in regional areas to monitor the effects of the bushfires.

But the impact is stretching beyond Australia, with those across the Tasman also noticing heavy smoke.

The huge cloud of smoke generated from the fires has travelled some 2,000 kilometres and blanketed New Zealand’s South Island.

Forecaster Tuporo Marsters from New Zealand’s MetServices said a strong north-westerly wind was blowing the smoke, which had reduced visibility to 10 kilometres in some areas.

“It’s appearing as an orangey haze across Christchurch and places like Timaru,” he said.

“It’s quite amazing.”

Mr Marsters said a cold front moving up the South Island was expected to gradually thin out the smoke-laden air.

Twitter user @getrochelle woke to heavy smoke over Port Chalmers in New Zealand, saying she could smell the smoke from Australia in the rain.

“Since the rain began the smell has become worse. If you have ever been in a burnt/smoke damaged building, that’s what it reminds me of out there today,” she posted.

Canberra readings off the charts

In the ACT, other air quality stations recorded ratings of 3,436 at Civic and 3,508 at Florey.


The smoke turned the sky orange over Dunedin, New Zealand, with Twitter user @BeneHoltmann capturing this striking image. (Twitter: @BeneHoltmann)

ACT acting chief health officer Dr Paul Dugdale said the air quality was the worst ever recorded in the capital.

“It is in the highest range that we go up to … and in fact it was out of range overnight on one of our smoke detectors,” he said.

“It went off the scale on the small particles.

“It’s certainly extremely smoky as anyone can see looking outside.”

How to battle the ‘airpocalypse’
The message from authorities is simple: stay indoors and limit your exposure. But while that might work for a day or two, what happens when it becomes the new norm?

By 11:30am visibility remained extremely low and people in affected areas were advised to avoid outdoor activity.

“No heavy exercise outdoors — it’s not the day to start your New Year’s resolution with a morning jog,” Dr Dugdale said.

For those going outside, Dr Dugdale recommended wearing a P2 mask, which filters out small PM2.5 particles.

“A P2 mask will help reduce smoke intake into your lungs, but they can be a bit tricky to fit,” he said.

More bushfire coverage:

“The ordinary surgical masks probably don’t do anything particular for your health, but if it feels better and some people are finding comfort from them, then I’m not about to discourage that.”


The shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra were eerily empty as smoke blanketed the water. (ABC News: Niki Burnside)

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

Corryong bushfire survivors grieve destroyed livelihoods, desperately search for family

Melbourne 3000

Bushfire survivors in Victoria’s north-east who lost power and communication for days have broken down in tears and are desperately asking for supplies after thousands of hectares were burnt, leaving their stock with no food.

Key points:

  • Authorities are attempting to reach cut-off communities with shipments of water, food and supplies
  • Authorities have warned there is “every chance” fires burning in the state’s east could join up and work their way towards NSW
  • For the latest information, visit the Vic Emergency website

Buildings were razed, properties destroyed and four people remain unaccounted for after fires tore through townships and communities across Victoria’s east and north on Tuesday.

Families in Corryong, near the New South Wales border, said they were desperate for food, fuel and farming equipment and some are still searching for family.

Helena Pluim said she had not been in touch with her daughter for almost 24 hours.

“I got onto her last night, but the fires came around,” she said.

Locals and visitors to the area sheltered in a relief centre in Corryong overnight and are now moving to a safer centre in Tallangatta.

Video: People were evacuated from Corryong on Tuesday night, after a bushfire leapt over the New South Wales border.

(ABC News)

‘We need help’

Sarah Klippel lost 1,475 acres of land and only had 15 acres left.

She said there were four to five years of fencing that needed to be rebuilt.

“We have cattle alive but no food,” Ms Klippel said.

“My husband has been fantastic, but he breaks down in the evening.

“It’s an unbelievable experience, we have three children, we don’t want to take them home because their chooks are dead, their animals are not well, it’s just been awful.”

Amy Paton broke down in tears as she begged people to help her community.


Amy Paton broke down in tears and said farmers desperately needed generators so their cattle can be milked. (ABC News)

She said generators were desperately needed so cows could be milked.

“We need help for our families with fencing, with feed, we need farming help, we need people up here who can donate their time,” she said.

Ten-year-old Scarlet Leone came to northern Victoria with her family after fleeing fires in their home of Narooma on the New South Wales coast.


Scarlet Leone fled fires in NSW before being trapped by fires in Victoria. (ABC News: Matthew Doran)

“We live an hour south of Bateman’s Bay, we came here to escape the fires which as you can see didn’t turn out very well,” Scarlet said.

“The whole thing’s been very stressful.”

Three Melbourne boys in Corryong have been cut off from their parents for days.

See how Wednesday, January 1 unfolded in our live blog

Teenagers Tom and Monty Linnestad and 11-year-old Harry Linnestad were in the area visiting their grandmother when the fires hit.

Monty said the fire was just 100 meters away from the evacuation centre on Wednesday.

“The whole place was full overnight. The power went off and smoke started to fill the place, everyone had masks and found it hard to breathe,” Tom said.

Harry said everyone “was filled with anxiety and nervousness”.


Burnt trees on the way into Corryong in north-eastern Victoria. (ABC News: Ashlee Charlton)

All warnings for bushfires in Victoria have now been downgraded to watch and act level, but communities are once again preparing for high temperatures and winds starting Friday.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said new fires were started by dry lightning overnight and there were 45 fires burning in Victoria’s east.

He said there was a possibility fires in East Gippsland could merge with fires moving south in New South Wales when conditions worsened over the weekend.

More bushfire coverage:


Cann River was enveloped in an orange haze as bushfire threatened the town. (Supplied)

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews said the current fires were “not like others”.

“This is still very dangerous, it is ever-changing, it is complex. The coming days and weeks are going to be very challenging, we have not seen this before,” Mr Andrews said.

“It’s going to test all of us.”

About 100 people took shelter in a school in Cann River, where the same fire that tore through Mallacoota on Tuesday is threatening lives and homes.

Alison Rainey, the owner of a local cafe, told ABC Radio they had plenty of supplies for now and were trying to get a generator up and operating.


Children and parents are sheltering in an evacuation centre in a school in Cann River where they are running out of supplies. (Facebook: Sherylle Holster)

Several families remained in the school by late on Wednesday, but most had returned to their homes ahead of more forecast hot weather for the weekend.

“Communication is a problem. The mobile coverage is patchy, that could just go and everyone’s relying on the VicEmergency apps,” she said.

“All services are so stretched … everybody needs help, everyone’s doing the best they can and hopefully we’ll be getting more help shortly.”

She said while there is a lot of anxiety in the community, everyone was rallying around.

“I don’t think we’re going to starve or anything like that, but it is concerning,” she said.

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

Here’s how Australians are marking New Year’s Eve across the country


Extreme weather conditions and total fire bans largely determined how people in various parts of Australia were seeing in 2020.

Bushfires have ravaged parts of Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania for days. For some, this meant spending New Year’s Eve inside an evacuation centre, or without their friends and family.

And across the country, towns and cities cancelled their New Year’s Eve fireworks displays.

But this wasn’t going to stop revellers from celebrating the new decade with a bang.

Here’s the rundown of events around Australia.

New South Wales


Sydney lights up its harbour to welcome 2020. (ABC News: Bellinda Kontominas)

Sydney went ahead with its world-class firework display after the NSW Rural Fire Service granted organisers an exemption from a total fire ban.

On Monday, with the RFS declared a total fire ban across 11 areas in New South Wales, including Greater Sydney, the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, Far South Coast and Southern Ranges.

It said organisers must apply for an exemption to hold their fireworks displays in areas where total fire bans were in place.

However, Sydney’s scheduled 9:00pm fireworks were delayed until 9:15pm due to high wind.

In the southern Sydney suburb of Bright-Le-Sands, NSW Police announced that the 9:00pm fireworks had to be cancelled due to “adverse weather conditions”.

External Link:

Strong #winds are making their way up the #NSW coast & are reaching #Sydney area. Winds are part of the forecast southerly change sweeping the coast & people on or around the harbour should take care

According the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), strong winds were making their way up the NSW coast and reaching the Sydney area.

BOM advised people on or around the harbour that they should take care.

Fireworks displays in many regional areas were cancelled or postponed, include those in Wollongong, Maitland, Orange, Berry, Shoalhaven, Huskisson, Armidale, Port Macquarie and Tweed Heads.

Back in Sydney, access to the Circular Quay was restricted.


The Cho family at Circular Quay. (ABC News: Bellinda Kontominas)

It meant hundreds of people were forced to find a spot on the middle of Phillip Street to view the fireworks, including the Cho family from Lidcombe, who ended up have a pretty good elevated view of the bridge.



Fireworks explode over the Princes Bridge in Melbourne. (AAP: James Ross)

Melbourne’s CBD planned to light up the sky for 10 minutes as the clock struck midnight.

There were also fireworks at 9:30pm at Yarra Park and Footscray Park.



Crowds gathered at Brisbane’s South Bank. (AAP: Dan Peled)

Fireworks displays were on offer at Brisbane’s South Bank at 8:30pm and again at midnight with more than 50,000 fireworks and lights on display.

At the Gold Coast, Kurrawa Park at Broadbeach was the best vantage spot for fireworks at 8:00pm and midnight.

Most families left after the early fireworks but large crowds remained along the river for the midnight show.

The ongoing bushfire crisis and drought was a topic of discussion at many picnic blankets.

Lisa Goldsworthy told the ABC she was visiting Brisbane from Bushy Park Station near Alice Springs, where they have had drought conditions for more than two years.

She said she initially felt uncomfortable about attending the fireworks.

“I did feel a little bit guilty coming along tonight, I did have a little twinge about it,” she said.

“But my kids are five and six and I enjoyed fireworks as a kid.

“How can you not try to have some joy in hard times?”

Western Australia

In Perth, beyond the ticketed events there were free New Year’s Eve celebrations planned across the city to welcome 2020.

The City of Perth began their party at 6:00pm in Yagan Square and the Perth Cultural Centre, with live music, fireworks, children’s entertainment and street performers.

City Beach was the stage for 10:00pm fireworks, and Rottnest Island was hosting entertainment and children’s activities from 4:00pm, with a fireworks at 9:00pm over Thomson Bay.

South of the river, Mandurah and Rockingham were holding family-friendly events on the eastern foreshore and at Churchill Park, with live music and fireworks at 9:00pm and midnight.

South Australia

In Adelaide, the fireworks were at Elder Park and along the bank of River Torrens, at 9:00pm and midnight.

The 9:00pm family fireworks ended with a fire in nearby reeds on the northern side of the Torrens River footbridge near Adelaide Oval.


Funds raised from Adelaide’s New Year’s Eve celebrations will go towards supporting bushfire victims. (Twitter: City of Adelaide)

The Metropolitan Fire Service said it had one crew on standby, who were able extinguish the blaze within minutes.

It said the midnight fireworks were approved to go ahead with a second truck brought in to standby.

It comes after numerous calls to cancel the fireworks due to their potential fire risk, along with the recent devastation caused by Cudlee Creek bushfires in the Adelaide Hills earlier this month.

Adelaide City Council and its Mayor said the New Year’s Eve event was to be held as a fundraiser to assist bushfire victims.

Funds raised during the celebrations were to go to St Vincent de Paul, the nationally allocated not-for-profit organisation for the National SA Bushfire Appeal.

Northern Territory

In Darwin, two 10-minute fireworks displays were on offer at the city’s waterfront, at 9:00pm and midnight, with Australian singer Daryl Braithwaite the headline act.


Canberra’s New Year’s Eve fireworks displays have been cancelled with a total fire ban declared for the ACT until 6:00am on January 1, 2020.



Celebrations are underway in Hobart. (ABC News: Greg Szabo)

New Year’s Eve celebrations got underway at the Taste of Tasmania festival on the Hobart waterfront.

Thousands of people were expected at the event.

Hobartians were being treated to major fireworks shows at 9:00pm and midnight.

In the north-west of Tasmania, the Burnie Bite and Brew waterfront party featured entertainment from 5:30pm to 12:30am, including fireworks displays at 9:30pm and midnight.


Fireworks above the Taste of Tasmania festival. (ABC News: Laura Beavis)

In Launceston, the BeerFest was hosting two fireworks shows, at 9:00pm and midnight.

Meanwhile, some of the remaining Sydney to Hobart yachts arrived in Hobart to cheers from New Year’s Eve revellers.

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

Inside the terrifying moments as bushfires closed in


Thousands of people are spending New Year’s Eve in a state of fear and uncertainty as huge fires threaten towns and communities across eastern Victoria and the New South Wales South Coast.

Key points:

  • Residents confront apocalyptic scenes in towns ravaged by the bushfires
  • Thousands fled to the coast in Mallacoota and were prepared to jump into the water
  • Large swathes of Vic and NSW are blanketed by smoke with significant losses of property

Holiday-makers who expected to be celebrating tonight have been forced to flee walls of flame that have turned the sky red and rained ashes down on once-idyllic waterside retreats.

The bodies of two people, believed to be a father and son, have been found in the Bega Valley town of Cobargo, where dozens of buildings are feared destroyed.

More people are missing and there are fears the death toll will rise.

This is what it’s like out on the firegrounds as 2019 comes to an end.

In Mallacoota, on the coast of East Gippsland, thousands of people were forced to take shelter on the waterfront today as fire ripped into the town.

Some fled on boats, others were told they might have to throw themselves into the sea if the flames came too close.

The drama unfolded under a blood-red sky and to the sound of gas canisters exploding as the fires entered the town.

Video: The man in the video described the scene as "chaos".

(ABC News)

Many people wore breathing masks to limit exposure to the toxic bushfire smoke, while others improvised with whatever they had, including cloths and ski goggles.

Those inside the town described the scenes as “apocalyptic”.

The sky turned dark as the fire reached the edge of town shortly before 8:30am. Mallacoota resident Don Ashby told the ABC it was “like the darkest, darkest night”.


The fire reached Mallacoota about 8:30am. (Supplied: Via Twitter @Nic_Asher)

The southern NSW town of Bermagui was also blanketed in thick smoke this morning.

This video shows the main street in near darkness at 8:45am.

Video: The vision shows an eerie scene in the centre of Bermagui.

(ABC News)

In the nearby Bega Valley town of Cobargo, large swathes of land have been ravaged by the fire, with buildings on the main street reduced to rubble.

Long-term residents Brenda Whiffen and her husband who spent the night defending their property said they could hear the fires “roaring like the ocean”.


Brenda Whiffen watched as the out-of-control fire blaze consumed her neighbour’s shed. (Supplied: Brenda Whiffen)

Back in Victoria, thousands of people gathered at the Mallacoota foreshore to wait for the fire to pass.

This vision was taken at 11:00am, local time.

While authorities later said the fire had bypassed the town after a wind change in the afternoon, the CFA’s Steve Warrington said houses had burnt down on the outskirts of town.

Video: Locals took refuge by the beach in Mallacoota, with about 5,000 gathered together.

(ABC News)

Elsewhere in East Gippsland, Kelsey Rettino’s mother shot vision of the blackened bushland and homes in Sarsfield this morning after the Marthavale bushfire tore through the area.

Ms Rettino said it was “heartbreaking” seeing completely razed bushland.

Helicopter vision shows flattened structures and blackened properties, while some people who passed through the town were shocked by the damage they saw.

Video: Scorched homes and bushland in the aftermath of Marthavale fire.

(ABC News)

Daniel Marshall filmed his return home to Quaama, north of Bega, to find his home in one piece but his shed gone.

“It’s the most intense thing I’ve ever experienced,” he said.

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

(ABC News)

On the New South Wales South Coast, blazes are burning from Nowra down to the Victorian border.

Mark Coombe from the RFS shot this video of the fires around Nowra today.

Video: Fires encroaching on Nowra filmed by RFS Mark Coombe

(ABC News)

But fires also broke out further north.

Yesterday Tracey Corbin-Matchett tweeted vision of flames barrelling towards the Tarbuck Bay holiday house she was staying in, north of Newcastle.

“My family just ran for our lives through bush,” she said.

“Flames ripped through in minutes.

“My kids were screaming. The most frightening experience of my life.”

Video: Ms Corbin-Matchett can be heard on the phone to the RFS while her daughter films the blaze.

(ABC News)

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

‘We’ve got no water left so we weren’t able to defend,’ says local after blaze engulfs NSW town

Cobargo 2550

The main street of the Bega Valley town of Cobargo has been devastated by an out-of-control bushfire which has left a father and son dead.

Key points:

  • Cobargo was engulfed by an emergency-level bushfire
  • Residents described how the drought left them with no water to defend their property
  • RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said dozens of buildings had been destroyed and two people were feared dead in the town

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


Part of the main street of Cobargo has been flattened by the bushfire. (Supplied.)

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said he expected the “significant impact” of the blaze had damaged or destroyed “dozens” of buildings in the historic village.

See how the day unfolded in our blog

Debbie Wilson and Phillip Bragg were on holidays in Cobargo and witnessed the chaos unfolding from their caravan parked behind a local pub.

“I was up at about 3:00am due to all the commotion of people coming and going there,” Ms Wilson said.

The couple tried to evacuate from the area around 5:00am, but were turned around as they drove to Bermagui.

“I was just watching everything burn,” she said.

“All I can see now is a lot of smoke and fire trucks — just a big whoosh of black smoke go up.”

‘You could hear it roaring like the ocean’


Brenda Whiffen watched as the out-of-control blaze consumed her neighbour’s shed. (Supplied: Brenda Whiffen)

Long-term residents Brenda Whiffen and her husband spent the night working to protect their property after embers brought the fire through about 1:00am.

“We came outside and you could see the red glow, but you could hear it roaring, that was the scary bit. You could hear it roaring like the ocean,” she said.

“And it just came so quick, because of the embers. One would start up here and another one would start somewhere else.”

Together the pair saved two homes on the property, about three kilometres from Cobargo’s town centre, but their farmland and other buildings were destroyed.

“I just went round and round watering it, that’s all I knew how to do,” she said.

“We lost the hay shed. Don’t know what we’re going to feed the animals with now.”


What the main street of Cobargo, population 776, looked like before the bushfire. (Supplied: Google Maps)


The main street was engulfed by flames, with dozens more buildings destroyed or damaged. (Supplied)

By late morning, she said they believed the worst was over.

“It’s cool now, we’ve got the southerly change so that might help,” she said.

Ms Whiffen said she was deeply saddened by the damage to the town, particularly the ravaged main street.

“This is our old home town — I’ve lived here since I was six, my husband’s lived here all his life, my kids were reared here,” she said.

‘This is what hell looks like’

Cobargo Hotel owner David Allen said he took matters into his own hands upon seeing how overwhelmed local firefighters were.

“I came back into town and that’s when embers started spot fires everywhere,” he said.

“We got the fire hoses out, the fire brigade guys were flat out and we thought, we’ll just try and save the pub.”

Mr Allen broke down as he described the ferocity of the blaze.

“As someone said, this is what hell looks like, and we saw it last night,” he said.

“It’s just so fast, and that’s what caught people unawares.”

Video: Cobargo in flames after bushfire tears through town

(ABC News)

Mr Allen said that by lunch time, a number of locals and their animals were taking a rest at Cobargo Hotel.

“We’ve had a few people with some burns come through… I think they’ve been taken to the evacuation centre,” he said.

But he couldn’t be sure what the extent of the impact had been on people in the fire’s path.

“To come out of it with no lives lost would be a miracle I think.”

‘We’ve got no water left so we weren’t able to defend’

Susanne Lewington, who owns the Breakfast Creek Vineyard in Bermagui, near Cobargo, was forced to evacuate her property at 5:00am.

She was speaking at a shelter down the road and did not know if the devastation has reached her property.

“It’s very eerie down here, it’s really smoky, there’s ash everywhere,” she said.

“I have no idea if we’ve lost our property. If we have a wind change it could go because we’ve very close to the creek and we’re close to the forest.

“The sky was black, we only got daylight a few hours ago.”

She said the drought had left her property without any significant water bodies that may have helped dampen the blaze.

“There’s not much left on the property, about 100 ducks, four cattle and 10 sheep, that’s all we’ve got left because I had to sell the rest due to the drought,” she said.

“We’ve got not water left so we weren’t able to defend.”

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

Flames rip through towns, fears death toll will rise as bushfires rage on


Huge fires continue to rage in Victoria and NSW, with two people confirmed to have died as flames destroyed parts of the town of Cobargo this morning.

Over the border in East Gippsland, thousands of people were forced to take shelter on the waterfront of the town of Mallacoota.

Look back through how the day unfolded.

External Link:

Victoria fires live blog

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

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