A series of bushfires have encircled residents and holidaymakers on the New South Wales south coast, where two people have been confirmed dead and one missing, homes have been destroyed and mass evacuations are in place in several towns.
On Tuesday afternoon the premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian, said two people had died at Cobargo on the south coast.
NSW police deputy commissioner Gary Worboys said police found the two men in a house in the west of Cobargo. They were residents of the town, and were father and son.
Emergency-level bushfires were still threatening Batemans Bay, Cobargo and other south coast towns on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s dark, there’s no power. Apocalyptic is the word,” Batemans Bay cafe owner Dennis Price told Guardian Australia as he waited for a scheduled delivery while others evacuated the town centre.
“There’s lot of smoke. Every store that I know of is shut. There’s been a couple of explosions, I think it might be gas bottles but I can’t be sure about that.”
Mum just called me in tears to tell my family house in Surf Beach, Batemans Bay has been destroyed. Dad built it. My parents have lost everything. Still trying to find out more. #NSWfires
— James Findlay (@james_findlay) December 31, 2019
There are six emergency-level bushfires burning on the NSW south coast, and dozens of firegrounds stretching from near Nowra to the Victorian border. At Batemans Bay, people have been evacuated to the waterfront. Like many nearby towns, roads out have been cut by the fires, hemming tens of thousands of residents and visitors into the usually relaxed holiday towns.
Homes are already feared lost near Batemans Bay.
Price told Guardian Australia power had been cut to the town, and that he would attempt to stay in a hotel near the town, rather than return to his home at Sunshine Bay.
“There’s really heavy smoke but we can’t actually see flames from where we are. Everybody basically left town by 10am, most staff were called home.
“Being cut off to the south and to Canberra at the moment ... we are kind of land locked and there are power outages.”
The New South Wales Rural Fire Services says one man in the south coast area was still unaccounted for. There are growing fears for the town of Cobargo, inland of Bermagui, where two people have died and the main street has been destroyed. The unaccounted for man was near the town of Belowra.
Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has told reporters of a “significant impact” to “dozens” of properties in Cobargo and other parts of the south coast.
“The estimates I can see through the reports coming from the field is that we’re talking about the buildings being impacted, damaged or destroyed numbering in the dozens across these various fire grounds,” he said.
About 18,000 properties have had their power cut. People up and down the coast have described ash falling like rain.