Tag: Photo Aaron Maples


‘I shouldn’t have left them’: Father’s regret as bushfire separates young family


Lake Conjola 2539

Fishermans Paradise on the New South Wales South Coast is standing, but powerlines have been flattened, telecommunications are down and the town has little to no water. Those keen to reach loved ones wait in limbo.

Key points:

  • Athina Skagias took to the water to cool down her daughter and young friend
  • Aaron Maples said he regrets leaving his family for work in Canberra
  • Paul Staikos says he’s waited “hours and hours” at a roadblock

Athina Skagias was visiting friends with her children when the Currowan bushfire moved into the area with overwhelming speed and force.

“It was surrounding us … we heard this helicopter come and it had the alert, three alerts, which I’ve never heard before,” she said.

“We put the kids and everyone in the water, and had the boat ready, so when the time came and the fire was getting close we had plans.

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

“Two men found us and pulled us across with jet skis to the other side, they saved us really.

“We were all surrounded by fire, we stayed in the water with wet towels on our faces for over an hour or two.”



Photo:

Athina Skagias, her daughter Kate Rose and family friend Nathan at the Fishermans Paradise Boat Ramp (ABC News: Timothy Swanston)

To the south, bushland was completely burnt out and the smoke was thick and hazardous.

Dozens of properties were destroyed when the ferocious blaze tore through nearby Conjola Park.

There is just one road in and out of town.

“I’m trying to contact home, I can’t even contact my sister. She’ll be worried as … I’m worried about family and friends,” Athena Skagias said.

“We have no water now at all and no electricity.”


Video: A family film their return to Lake Conjola

(ABC News)

‘Stuck, alone and full of regret’

Aaron Maples’ family was just a 10-minute drive away from him at their home in Fishermans Paradise, but they may as well have been a world apart.

On Wednesday evening, he was stuck in his car at a roadblock on the Princes Highway and unable to contact his wife and three young children.

“I shouldn’t have left them,” he said while sitting in the front seat of his car waiting.

He had gone to work in Canberra, but when the bushfires swept through the NSW South Coast on New Year’s Eve it became too dangerous to travel home.



Photo:

Aaron Maples said he had not made contact with his wife and three young children for all of Wednesday. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)

“[I’m] just trying to get back to my family. With no contact it’s pretty hard. I’m sure they’re safe, but it’s … hard,” Mr Maples said.

“Last contact [with them] was probably about 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon, they seemed OK. There was a fire at the entrance of Fishermans Paradise and down on the lake. At the boat ramp and we’re kind of in the middle.

“[They said it] was just black, you couldn’t see anything, but luckily there were a few fire trucks stuck in there with them as well.

“I should have been there, but there were no real clear warnings this week that you should stay at home, so we thought it was pretty safe to go back to work.”

It became a familiar story across the South Coast region, as families were cut off from loved ones or home as fire quickly ripped through the area.

Many people became stuck at roadblocks, where dozens of cars queued waiting for roads to open. Some slept in their cars.

“Power’s back on at Mollymook!” someone yelled at the corner of the Princes Highway and Sussex Inlet, with the highway closed in both directions.

The hardest part of being stuck is not being able to contact loved ones.

“There’s limited reception in Ulladulla, but in Fishermans Paradise there’s nothing. I’ve been trying,” Aaron Maples said.

“They’re probably more stressed out because they can’t get into contact with me. They don’t know where I am.”



Photo:

Paul Staikos said he was one of the lucky ones, having spoken to his family. (ABC News: Timothy Swanston)

Paul Staikos from south-west Sydney was trying to reunite with his family, too. He was riding his motorcycle down to the South Coast to see them when he encountered a roadblock.

Fortunately, his family members had been able to make contact with him and confirmed they were safe.

“I haven’t seen them for about a week,” he said.

“I’ve been waiting here for hours, hours and hours … But I’m planning to get there.”

More bushfire coverage:

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




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