2 January 2020

At least seven dead, hundreds of properties lost and there's more to come on the Coast

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Fire damage between Batemans Bay and Moruya

Region Media’s Lisa Herbert has photographed fire-ravaged communities between Moruya and Batemans Bay.

Communications are down, homes are in ruins and communities along the South Coast are in profound shock. As the confirmed toll from the New Year’s Eve bushfire infernos begins to emerge, the grim news is, it’s not over.

Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Councils and the Rural Fire Service are begging tourists to leave while they can before extremely dangerous conditions return this weekend, the same or worse than New Year’s Eve.

Police and RFS confirmed this afternoon that seven people have lost their lives and a least 186 homes have been destroyed, including up to 80 per cent of buildings in some communities.

The body of a man was found in a burned-out car on a road off the Princes Highway at Yatte Yattah today and another man was found dead in a vehicle on Wandra Road, Sussex Inlet. On Tuesday, a 70-year-old man was found dead outside a home west of Lake Conjola.

North Rosedale

A wood-fired oven at North Rosedale is all that remains of this house.

Robert and Patrick Salway lost their lives fighting the fire at Wandella near Cobargo on Tuesday and another body has been found at Coolagolite, also near Cobargo.

A 72-year-old man is still missing at Belowra, and a 70-year-old Conjola Park woman is also missing. While details remain unclear it is very likely that there will be more confirmed fatalities.

There are further serious injuries: several burns patients have been airlifted inland from Moruya.

Batemans Bay

The remains of the New Year’s Eve inferno near Batemans Bay.

Eighty-nine houses were lost in Conjola Park, 40 in Malua Bay and 15 in Rosedale, although there are scenes of absolute devastation in communities close to Batemans Bay and the eventual toll could be higher.

Yowani Road in north Rosedale, Sylvan Street and Mimosa Place in Malua Bay were all heavily damaged. The Malua Bay Bowling Club has also been destroyed.

NSW Rural Fire services deputy commissioner Rob Rogers has warned that this is by no means the end of the losses. Given the huge scale of the disaster, crews are still assessing the damage.

Bushfire remains

Bushfire remains, 1 January 2020.

A brief window has opened for evacuation via Brown Mountain as fuel supplies become available in Moruya, Narooma and Eden.

Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shire Councils are both pleading with visitors to leave before anticipated heatwave conditions on Friday and Saturday. The Bureau of Meteorology says that wind gusts of up to 90 km/h and temperatures in the low to mid-forties are possible, creating widespread extreme fire danger.

The RFS has initiated a Tourist Leave Zone from Batemans Bay to the Victorian border. They say that weekend conditions will be the same or worse than New Year’s Eve. “You need to leave before this Saturday”, the warning says. “It is not safe. Do not be in this area on Saturday”.

The road north is now open from Batemans Bay through to Sydney.

The Princes Highway is now open from Moruya to Bermagui. At Bermagui turn off and travel via coast road to Tathra and on to Bega then to Cooma via Brown Mountain. These detours are signposted.

You should be aware that George Bass Drive – the coast road between Moruya and Batemans Bay – is closed between Rosedale and Malua Bay due to fire damage. All efforts are being made to have George Bass Drive fully open by 10 am.

Please travel calmly, drive with your lights on, obey any traffic control. There is a lot of smoke over Brown Mountain and heavy traffic, so please drive to conditions.

Up to $60 worth of unleaded and diesel fuel is available at the Moruya Caltex, near Cameron’s Hardware. Fuel is also available from Narooma Shell on the flat and further south at Caltex in Eden.

Random household debris shows the speed and impact of the fires.

Particular concern over the next few days is focussing on the villages south of Eden including Kiah, Boyd Town and Wonboyn after two significant fires joined together across the state border.

The Weir Rd Fire, burning in the Timbillica State Forest, is now being referred to as the Border Fire after joining a large fire burning to the south in Victoria that has moved north into NSW.

“There are no contained edges in that fire,” Mayor Kristy McBain told a community meeting this afternoon at Eden Marine High School. “We will experience severe weather conditions from Friday onwards.

“If you can move on and head towards Bega or up to the Snowy and Canberra then we request you to do so.”

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