Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
NSW and Vic bushfires claim eight lives

Eight people have been confirmed dead and hundreds of homes have been destroyed as out-of-control bushfires savaged NSW and Victoria.

January 1, 2020

Eight people have died, others are missing and hundreds of homes have been destroyed as fire crews battle dozens of out-of-control bushfires in Australia’s southeast.

The worst of the blazes are in Victoria’s east and on the NSW south coast, where thousands of people in isolated communities are ringed by fire and the military has been deployed to reach them.

“Yesterday was a bugger of a day, there’s no other way to describe it,” NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said after defending his own property in the south of the state.

“The fire moved at a pace that no one expected … it shot around the back of places … It’s devastating.”

Residents and holidaymakers have been warned to evacuate the regions ahead of the weekend when high temperatures and strong winds are again forecast.

“We’ve seen the enormity of devastation and destruction that unfolded yesterday,” NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

“Unfortunately the weather conditions coming in for Saturday are likely to be worse.”

More than 100 fires continue to burn in NSW, where two people are missing and seven people have died in recent days, including young father Patrick Salway, 29, his dad Robert Salway, 63.

The men were killed protecting their home at Cobargo, on the state’s south coast, where four more bodies were found in burnt-out vehicles and homes on Wednesday.

Volunteer firefighter Sam McPaul, 28, died after his 10-tonne Rural Fire Service truck was flipped by a fire-tornado near Jingellic on the NSW-Victorian border.

In Victoria, where about 50 fires continue to burn and four people are missing, the body of Mick Roberts was found at his home in Buchan, East Gippsland.

Multiple fires in the region have destroyed schools, businesses, livestock, pastures and fences, along with hundreds of homes, as they chewed through over 500,000 hectares of land.

“I spoke with people today and they just said it was hurricane-like, horrifying, terrifying, the most frightening experience of their life,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“The next few days are going to be a lot of hard work and the next few months will be a very long and steady process of helping these communities to rebuild.” 

Helicopters and boats have ferried firefighters and supplies to the isolated NSW-Victorian border town of Mallacoota, which was flattened by fire on Tuesday as 4000 people sheltered on a beach amid apocalyptic scenes.

Military aircraft, including Black Hawk helicopters, are also expected to begin helping with the relief effort, along with naval vessels, that are due to arrive in coming days to move people out of the area.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said communities needed to prepare themselves for the possibility of more fatalities in the state as early assessments of fire-ravaged communities found 176 homes had been destroyed.

“People who have been here for decades are just completely shocked that the fires reached as far as they did,” she said.

“I do want everyone to brace themselves.”

Across Australia, eighteen people have died and more than 1200 homes have been destroyed in bushfires so far this fire season.

Comments are closed.

Latest Stories
date published
May 2022
« Apr