SYDNEY, March 19 — Fire crews are continuing to battle severe wildfires on Australia’s east coast on Monday, after almost 100 homes were destroyed over the weekend with extremely hot conditions and strong winds fanning the catastrophic blaze.
As temperatures soared to around 40 degrees celsius on the south coast of New South Wales (NSW) and with wind gusts hitting up to 90 km per hour, the small township of Tathra quickly became engulfed by a fast moving firestorm.
“We’ve had crews actively defending properties this morning where the bushland that was not burnt last night has ignited in steep, hilly terrain,” NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) spokesman Matthew Reeves told local residents at a nearby evacuation centre.
“We are still very much in a phase of gaining control of this fire.”
The latest damage assessment estimates over 70 homes were lost in the community of 3,000 residents.
“It jumped very quickly to a place called Thomson Road and that was where the first home was impacted and it just really quickly ran then into the main part of the town,” RFS Deputy Fire Commissioner Rob Rogers told local media.
“It is fair to say with how quickly that fire moved, there wasn’t a lot of time.
“We are not talking hours here, we’re talking minutes that people had warning of this.”
Further south in the State of Victoria, at least 18 homes were also scorched after lightning strikes sparked huge grass fires that have burnt over 40,000 hectares of land since Saturday evening.
With many farms in the area, it’s feared a significant number of livestock have also been lost.
Despite cooler conditions overnight, warnings still remain in place for fires burning near the communities of Terang, Garvoc and Camperdown and Gazette, in the state’s west, where over 700 firefighters are battling several blazes.
“When we started to smell smoke, (we) went outside and had a look and there was just a glow across the north-west horizon,” Roma Britnell, a state member of Parliament who was caught up in the emergency told local radio.
“We went for a walk up (the neighbours’) paddock to see what we could see past the trees, and fires were just spotting around us everywhere.”
“It was really a horrific experience, It was like a hurricane.”
Although no fatalities have been reported, four people were been hospitalized due to smoke inhalation and one woman was treated for minor burns. – XINHUA
Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: NASA