Day of devastation across Far South Coast

Michael Weaver 31 December 2019 51

From Moruya this morning looking north, 31 December. Photo: Alex Rea.

UPDATE: 6:00 pm – After a day of devastation across the Far South Coast, four fires remain at an emergency level on the last day of 2019. In less than 24 hours, the fires have burned close to 100,000 hectares and counting.

NSW Police have warned that all telecommunications, including mobile phone coverage, will be lost tonight on the NSW South Coast between Nowra and Moruya. Hospitals will be among the facilities affected.

There are reports of people who have lost houses, people looking for their elderly parents, people seeking shelter for their animals and people just seeking shelter.

A 63-year-old man and his 29-year-old son died overnight (Monday 30 December), on their property at Wandella, about 10km north-west of Cobargo.

A woman has told police she’d left the property the previous evening, but her husband and son stayed behind to defend the home and farm equipment. She returned this morning and discovered their bodies.

A 72-year-old man is unaccounted for at Belowra, about 50km north-west of Cobargo.

Inquiries are continuing.

This morning, the NSW RFS confirmed that the RFS firefighter killed at the Green Valley Fire, east of Albury, is Samuel McPaul from the Morven Brigade in the Southern Border Team.

From a communications officer manning the phones with the Rural Fire Service in Newcastle: “We are having another heartbreaking day in comms with people losing homes and lives, and with everywhere a tinderbox at present, it won’t take much for a spark to take off.”

From Batemans Bay came reports that Bunnings had “exploded”.

From the director of the Mogo Wildlife Park (Mogo Zoo) Chad Staples: “Every single animal at the zoo has been saved from the fire that swept through the area this morning. The smaller animals we caught and took inside. The larger, dangerous animals – big cats, gorillas – we put them into their night houses so we could protect them there. People are passionate about the animals. The fires are still burning across the road, so we need to keep vigilant.”

From the woman in Narooma who allowed someone’s brother and partner to use her phone, although her phone battery was low, to contact family and let her know they’re safe: “I cannot thank you enough.”

From the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, “It’s going to be a rough night for thousands of people on the south coast.”

South Coast residents are about to lose all telecommunications including mobile tonight, following a day of complete devastation. A father and son have been now confirmed dead at Yowrie, west of Cobargo. Another person is still missing from near Belowra. Many coastal communities are without water and some without safe drinking water as massive blazes pass through, Genevieve Jacobs reports.

Posted by The RiotACT on Monday, 30 December 2019

To stay up to date on bush fires in your area call the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737 or check the NSW RFS website. For road reports and updates visit Live Traffic NSW.

Use the Register.Find.Unite service to register your location, and find and reunite with family, friends and loved ones after an emergency. For a list of evacuation centres visit Disaster Assistance.

Long Beach

Long Beach looking south to Batemans Bay at about 12:00 pm, 31 December. Photo: Durras Community Association.

UPDATE: 3:30 pm – NSW Police has confirmed the deaths of two people west of Cobargo overnight. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian made the announcement in a press conference this afternoon.

“It’s been confirmed today that there are two deceased persons in Cobargo. The police have confirmed that. A third person is missing with grave concerns for their safety, west of Narooma,” Ms Berejiklian said.

NSW Rural Fire Service Far South Coast liaison officer Marty Webster told Region Media it will be some time before fire crews can assess the amount of damage to properties.

“Right across the Far South Coast, there has been significant property loss overnight and today. There are lots of displaced people and a lot of people in evacuation centres,” Mr Webster said.

“It’s been a particularly challenging day to get any sort of containment on the fires, and we’ve just been focusing on protecting properties where we can.”

There are reports that three people are unaccounted for on the South Coast and are being treated as potential fatalities as the South Coast fire disaster continues. Genevieve Jacobs reports that Batemans Bay, Mogo and Broulee are being impacted as firefighters battle volatile winds, a strong southerly and extremely aggressive fire behaviour.

Posted by The RiotACT on Monday, 30 December 2019

Mr Webster said there were no reports of any fire activity on the northern side of the Clyde River at Batemans Bay despite the sky being almost blacked. People have been congregating on the beach as the fire front is still being fanned by strong southerly winds.

At Mogo Zoo there is a glimmer of good news, with all the animals saved despite what has been described as a “ring of fire” surrounding the zoo.

Strike Team Whiskey

The crews of Strike Team Whiskey catching a couple of moments of reprieve at Bega. Photo: Fire and Rescue Queanbeyan.

Meanwhile, firefighters are feeling the effects of another day and night of constant action across a number of fire grounds. Mr Webster said there are no reports of significant injuries to firefighters.

“We’ve certainly had some fatigued firefighters, but there are no reports of significant injuries to firefighters who have been on the ground today,” he said.

The NSW RFS website

The NSW RFS website as of 2:40 pm, 31 December. Image: NSW RFS website.

To stay up to date on bush fires in your area call the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737 or check the NSW RFS website. For road reports and updates visit Live Traffic NSW.

Use the Register.Find.Unite service to register your location, and find and reunite with family, friends and loved ones after an emergency. For a list of evacuation centres visit Disaster Assistance.

UPDATE: 1:30 pm – The focus of the firefighting effort has moved to multiple fronts in the Batemans Bay area as a southerly change has now passed through and has moved up the coast.

This is pushing the fire front in a northerly direction and has effectively turned the sky into an eerie orange and black around Batemans Bay.

The Fires Near Me website is currently not showing the extent of areas burnt south of Batemans Bay.

There are unconfirmed reports of houses being burned in between Surf Beach and Mogo. The status of the Mogo Zoo is also unknown, although there are reports that staff and firefighters are working to save the zoo.

Region Media can confirm there are fires burning to the west of Carroll College at Broulee.

There are also active fires in the Catalina area, with spotting across the Clyde River into Surfside. There are currently no evacuation orders for the Long Beach area.

George Bass Drive

George Bass Drive, Batemans Bay, 11:00 am, 31 December. Photo: Josh Burkinshaw Images.

There are reports that no power is available in the Long Beach and Surfside areas.

There are no shops open in Batemans Bay, but there are long lines of traffic along Beach Road in Batemans Bay as people again move to safety.

Neighbourhood Safer Places have been set up at the following locations below, but people are urged to take note of conditions as some of these areas may be impacted by the fires. They are a place of last resort during a bushfire emergency.

  • Wharf Street Car Park – Wharf Street, Nelligen (adjacent to the wharf)
  • Hanging Rock Oval – Cnr Beach Road & Hanging Rock Road, Catalina
  • NSW RFS Training Building – Eurobodalla Training Ground, Bimbimbie Road, Mogo
  • Malua Bay Beach Reserve – George Bass Drive, Malua Bay (south of the Surf Club)
  • Jack Buckley Park – Sunpatch Parade, Tomakin
  • Mossy Point Foreshore – Intersection of Annetts Parade, Pacific Street and Surfside Avenue, Mossy Point
  • Moruya Showground – Albert Street, Moruya
  • Maloneys Beach – Cnr Maloneys Drive and Hibiscus Close, Maloneys Beach
  • Araluen Recreational Reserve – Araluen Road, Araluen
  • For a list of evacuation centres visit Disaster Assistance.

The Princes Highway remains closed between Batemans Bay and Moruya. Further north, the highway is closed between Milton and South Nowra.

Moruya Showground

The evacuation point at the Moruya Showgrounds. Photo: Lisa Herbert.

To stay up to date on bush fires in your area call the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737 or check the NSW RFS website. For road reports and updates visit Live Traffic NSW.

Use the Register.Find.Unite service to register your location, and find and reunite with family, friends and loved ones after an emergency. For a list of evacuation centres visit Disaster Assistance.

Moruya at 9:15 am

Moruya’s main street at 9:15 am on 31 December 2019. Photo: Karyn Starmer.

UPDATE: 12:30 pm – ABC advises to tune to 100.5 FM for emergency updates after normal transmission cut.

UPDATE: 11:56 am – Cobargo’s main street is alight and Moruya is full of evacuees as the South Coast fires reach crisis point. The RFS says the situation “is extremely dire”.

Cobargo’s main street is alight and Moruya is full of evacuees as the South Coast fires reach crisis point. The RFS says the situation “is extremely dire” http://ow.ly/3HLV50xKnrh

Posted by The RiotACT on Monday, 30 December 2019

UPDATE: 11:31 am – Worsening conditions on multiple fire grounds overnight have created chaotic conditions for towns on the NSW south coast this morning (31 December).

Three bushfires are burning at an emergency level. People between Batemans Bay and Bega are being told to evacuate to the nearest safe town.

There are reports of significant property losses to the west of Cobargo. The Badga Forest Fire has reached the town of Cobargo. Buildings are alight in the town.

Cobargo main stree

Cobargo main street, 31 December. Photo: Josh Mead.

Power has also been cut in Moruya as people from neighbouring towns seek safety.

Further north, the Clyde Mountain Fire has reached the Eurobodalla Botanic Gardens and is spotting into areas along the coast south of Batemans Bay, including Caseys Beach, Catalina and Batehaven.

NSW Rural Fire Service south coast liaison officer Marty Webster told Region Media the situation all along the south coast is an extremely dire one and that resources will be stretched.

His key message for people was to act according to the advice given by official RFS channels and carefully follow the NSW RFS website for updates.

Region Media will also provide rolling coverage as updates unfold today.

“Our key message is for people to read the message they receive and act accordingly rather than do mass evacuations,” Mr Webster said.

“People need to carefully follow the advice on our website. Leaving late is always a dangerous option.”

Mr Webster said the safest options for people choosing to leave was to head for the CBD areas of the nearest major town and stay clear of back roads.

Those towns include Moruya, Batemans Bay, Narooma, Bega, Merimbula and Eden.

“The safest place is going to be in the CBD and not in the fringe areas around those towns,” Mr Webster said.

“I want to reinforce that we do not want people travelling on back roads.”

Mr Webster said further firefighting resources are arriving to assist those that desperately need rest.

“We’ve got resources here and from out of the area. We’re getting everything that’s available, we’re doing everything we can, but it’s never going to be enough on a day like this,” he said.

A strong southerly change is expected to pass through the south coast today. A duty forecaster with the Bureau of Meteorology said the southerly change has reached Montague Island (as of 10:30 am, 31 December) and is slowly making its way up the coast.

Wind speeds are between 40-50 km/h will increase to 50-60k m/h along the coast in the afternoon.

This will push the fire front in a northerly direction.

The RFS is also advising that the fire is impacting on Batemans Bay

To stay up to date on bush fires in your area call the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737 or check the NSW RFS website. For road reports and updates visit Live Traffic NSW.

Use the Register.Find.Unite service to register your location, and find and reunite with family, friends and loved ones after an emergency. For a list of evacuation centres visit Disaster Assistance.


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51 Responses to Day of devastation across Far South Coast
Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:30 pm 01 Jan 20

“The air quality in Canberra gone down to 15 times the hazardous level.. how much more on those areas close to the bushfires..”

The smoke we are getting is from the smouldering remains of the Tallagandra fire and no one lives in that area. Video today of built up areas where the fires have caused total devastation shows clear air with the smoke from the fire front being taken high into the atmosphere and out to sea at the time of combustion.

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 7:07 am 01 Jan 20

If a fundraiser is started for Mogo Zoo please let us know! They’ll need support feeding those animals in the wake of the fires.

Sarah Popple Sarah Popple 5:13 am 01 Jan 20

Armageddon

Sonny Mendoza Sonny Mendoza 11:11 pm 31 Dec 19

Is the Australian government asking help from other countries to control these devastating bushfires!

    Sarah Popple Sarah Popple 5:13 am 01 Jan 20

    yes exactly what I thought!

    Peter Drady Dradrach Peter Drady Dradrach 7:14 am 01 Jan 20

    Sonny Mendoza https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theaustralian.com.au/nation/outside-help-vital-to-support-firefighters-amid-crisis/news-story/a4f3d53f2daff6f52990a349428b62f9

    Sonny Mendoza Sonny Mendoza 10:18 am 01 Jan 20

    The air quality in Canberra gone down to 15times the hazardous level.. how much more on those areas close to the bushfires..

    Ahnie Couni Ahnie Couni 8:23 am 02 Jan 20

    Peter Drady Dradrach that was dec 21. Where is the help? So sad.

    Julia Dunn Julia Dunn 7:57 am 04 Jan 20

    Sonny Mendoza we’ve had help for some time from NZ, Canada and the US

    Roberta Lynne Anning Roberta Lynne Anning 10:56 am 04 Jan 20

    The NSW premier turned down help from our own Armed services.

Liz Stephens Liz Stephens 10:55 pm 31 Dec 19

Sadly Devastating, condolences to the families .

Sal O'Donnell Sal O'Donnell 10:55 pm 31 Dec 19

Debi explains why we can’t get in contact with them. Xx

Sally Phoenix Sally Phoenix 6:40 pm 31 Dec 19

Smita Patel are u safe??? This is so scary

    Smita Patel Smita Patel 6:43 pm 31 Dec 19

    Sally Phoenix I am Bubba are safe. My bro is a little too close to fires for my comfort

    Sally Phoenix Sally Phoenix 6:46 pm 31 Dec 19

    Smita Patel geez I didnt realise.... I hope they stay safe....

    Smita Patel Smita Patel 7:19 pm 31 Dec 19

    Sally Phoenix I’m waiting for updates. So far they are still at home. They are packed and ready to go

    Sally Phoenix Sally Phoenix 7:20 pm 31 Dec 19

    Smita Patel ok do keep us posted... hope everyone is safe and unhurt

Deborah Olde Deborah Olde 6:10 pm 31 Dec 19

Heartbreaking news :( Sincere Condolences to all the family and friends. 💔😢

Rob Long Rob Long 6:05 pm 31 Dec 19

We need to all remember to punish liberals at the next election for their apathy about this climate emergency

Alisoun Garrard Alisoun Garrard 2:54 pm 31 Dec 19

Chad Staples - director of Mogo Zoo on ABC news said animals are safe but they are putting out spot fires on site. Staff were active in saving the site!

    Jess Meyer Jess Meyer 7:17 pm 31 Dec 19

    Alisoun Garrard I saw that too. Amazing bunch of people. Well done to them.

Paula Simcocks Paula Simcocks 2:48 pm 31 Dec 19

RiotACT is giving the best coverage!!

Tony Hardy Tony Hardy 2:17 pm 31 Dec 19

It is so sad with pictures of the beautiful old town of Cobargo in flames. So much is irreplaceable and so many people have lost houses and businesses. I pray for them all.

Rebecca Abbott Rebecca Abbott 1:34 pm 31 Dec 19

Main street of Cobargo. Quaama has been hit hard as well 😢

Michelle Ayers Michelle Ayers 12:10 pm 31 Dec 19

Any word on Mogo. Rumours here and no info with poor internet access

    Pam Healey Pam Healey 12:12 pm 31 Dec 19

    Michelle Ayers i saw that a ladys house and business are gone

    Rosie Cooney Rosie Cooney 12:13 pm 31 Dec 19

    Michelle Ayers Fire is all around Mogo, many houses lost. Don’t know all the details but have been listening in on the scanner

    Michelle Ayers Michelle Ayers 12:21 pm 31 Dec 19

    Rosie Cooney thanks folks

    Emily Carter Emily Carter 1:38 pm 31 Dec 19

    Michelle Ayers the prices highway between Mogo and Batemans Bay is burning. The zoo is currentlt being defended by firetrucks however is in direct line of fire

    Eric Anthony Lucas Eric Anthony Lucas 2:04 pm 31 Dec 19

    Michelle Ayers actually that map is misleading. The fire has come through Broulee too, and set one of the schools on fire.

    Karen Yaldren Karen Yaldren 2:24 pm 31 Dec 19

    Eric and Mogo from what residents sent out.

    Anne L Draffin Anne L Draffin 2:27 pm 31 Dec 19

    Eric Anthony Lucas are you down at Broulee this year ?

    Eric Anthony Lucas Eric Anthony Lucas 2:42 pm 31 Dec 19

    Anne Louise Draffin no, we cancelled thank goodness!

    Anne L Draffin Anne L Draffin 2:46 pm 31 Dec 19

    Eric Anthony Lucas good idea as I have heard it’s devastating down that way !

    Eric Anthony Lucas Eric Anthony Lucas 4:03 pm 31 Dec 19

    Anne Louise Draffin I keep hearing from my friends. One has lost his vineyard and a shed, but the firefighters have done a wonderful job and all the others have escaped any harm.

    Kylie Wood Kylie Wood 5:18 pm 31 Dec 19

    Michelle Ayers unfortunately it’s all gone- the whole town. Just seen pics from Sydney Morning Herald

Edwina Robinson Edwina Robinson 11:49 am 31 Dec 19

Southerly has hit Moruya with temperature dropping from 37 to 29. Gusty winds causing branches to snap.

    Lisa McDonald Lisa McDonald 1:43 pm 31 Dec 19

    Edwina, take care. Thinking of you all.

    Tim Hollo Tim Hollo 1:56 pm 31 Dec 19

    Edwina Robinson hope you’re safe, Edwina. Thinking of you and all others down there. Just awful.

Chrissy Hastir Chrissy Hastir 11:43 am 31 Dec 19

Bunnings Batman's Bay impacted.

Jill Whatman Jill Whatman 11:39 am 31 Dec 19

and wheres the nearest safe town, roads are blocked all over the place. Stay safe everyone

Tanya Tomlinson Tanya Tomlinson 11:37 am 31 Dec 19

6 fires at Bateman's Bay now. Probably started by embers.

Smita Patel Smita Patel 11:36 am 31 Dec 19

I’m sure people didn’t believe it would happen so fast.

    Giulia Quadraccia Giulia Quadraccia 12:03 pm 31 Dec 19

    A NSW RFS incident controller said on the 6th Dec (25 days ago) that the fires could reach Moruya:

    https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6531050/residents-at-community-meeting-presented-with-worst-case-scenario/?cs=14225

    Amanda Evans Amanda Evans 12:28 pm 31 Dec 19

    Giulia Quadraccia yes and it seems nit enough people paid attention!

    Karen Yaldren Karen Yaldren 2:22 pm 31 Dec 19

    Smita its the denial faze... samehappened in 2003, shock makes people move slower... I'm so sad for the all the people and animals affected, all the while I'm prepping cause these dires jave moved really fast all season

    Smita Patel Smita Patel 2:30 pm 31 Dec 19

    Giulia Quadraccia yeah it seems people think it was going to be ok

    Smita Patel Smita Patel 2:31 pm 31 Dec 19

    Karen Yaldren I can imagine. We all need an evacuation plan for all scenarios so it can just be enacted straight away

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