UPDATE @ 2.30PM: Two people have been confirmed dead and grave fears are held for a third as bushfires continue to rage on the New South Wales South Coast.
A father and son were killed while trying to defend their home in the town of Cobargo this morning.
A third man remains unaccounted for in the town of Belowra, west of Narooma.
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NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Gary Worboys says it’s a very tragic set of circumstances.
“(They were) trying to do their best with the fire as it came through in the early hours of the morning,” Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.
“The other person that we are trying to get to, west of Narooma, we think that person as well was caught up, trying to defend their property.”
It’s understood that man may be a volunteer fire fighter.
EMERGENCY WARNING – Currowan Fire (Shoalhaven LGA)
If you are in the areas north of Ulladulla, south of Nowra and The Bay & Basin area, it is too late to leave. Seek shelter as the fire approaches. For more: https://t.co/MDE4sIfzzs#nswfires #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/2bWuADIm7B
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 31, 2019
More than 100 fires continue to burn with eight at Emergency Alert level, the majority of those on the south coast.
There are reports of widespread property losses in towns along the south coast including Cobargo, Mogo, Batemans Bay and Lake Conjola.
“We need to brace ourselves for a considerable number of properties, a considerable number of homes that are likely to have been damaged and or destroyed right across these eight emergency warning fire areas given the extraordinary nature of the fire behaviour,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
The RFS is warning of a long and difficult night ahead.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian says they are doing everything they can to protect people and property.
“Today is turning out to be a horrible day for New South Wales,” she said.
“Our message is to please follow instructions. Do not do anything that is going to compromise your safety or the safety of others.”
A fire generated thunderstorm has formed over Currowan fire. Pyro-cumulonimbus can create erratic winds, dry lightning & significantly faster fire spread & in multiple directions. Monitor conditions around you & take action. Learn more: https://t.co/upo2vca92X #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/HAtuOLr3i9
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 31, 2019
EARLIER @ 12.30PM: Three people are missing, feared dead as ferocious fires rage on the New South Wales South Coast.
A number of homes have also been destroyed in scenes described as ‘apocalyptic’.
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says it is too dangerous to get into affected areas to check on those who are missing.
“We are getting preliminary reports that we have three people unaccounted for, and potential fatalities as a result of the fire in the South Coast,” Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.
“We have reports of two people potentially in Cobargo and another one out at Belowra.”
Six fires are at Emergency Level around Batemans Bay and Bega with another two in the Snowy Valley and Greater Hume areas.
“We are seeing, for example, a major centre like Batemans Bay, we’re seeing the fire burn right out across the Princes Highway, through towards the coastal areas of Batemans Bay,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
Roads around the coastal township have been clogged with people trying to escape to safe areas in town such as shopping centres.
Others in bushfire-prone areas along the South Coast have been advised to head towards more urban areas including Narooma, Moruya, Bega and Batemans Bay.
“Staying safe in large centres, such as Batemans Bay, is a viable option, otherwise a lot of other coastal villages and hamlets, the messages is to head to safety and generally speaking, safety is towards the beach,” Commissioner Fitzimmons said.
“It’s a dangerous and volatile situation already down the South Coast of New South Wales and we expect that to increase as we see conditions throughout today before we see the southerly move up the coast.
Hundreds of others have been forced to huddle on beaches to wait out the emergency.
At least four homes are believed to have been gutted in Batemans Bay while a number of cars at the town’s SES Headquarters were also seen on fire.
There are reports power has now gone out in the Batemans Bay CBD.
— Ellie Morello (@elliebmorello) December 30, 2019
Batemans Bay CBD has lost power and is pitch black at 12.20pm. pic.twitter.com/cPry7nsBHL
— Andrea Cantle (@AndreaCantle) December 31, 2019
— John Athanasiou (@jbgathanasiou) December 30, 2019
— Daniel Sutton (@danielsutton10) December 31, 2019
— Alastair Prior (@alastairprior) December 31, 2019
— Jonathan Kearsley (@jekearsley) December 30, 2019