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Tens of thousands flee NSW South Coast in biggest evacuation in Australian history

JOHN STANLEY

A mass exodus from the New South Wales South Coast is underway ahead of extreme fire conditions predicted for Saturday.

Entire towns and national parks are being warned to get out while they can, with searing heat and strong winds predicted for the weekend.

NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says the conditions are forecast to be even worse than New Year’s Eve and “the consequences can be fatal” if people don’t heed the warning to get out.

The leave zone has been extended to Shoalhaven, with the RFS urging anyone who doesn’t need to be there to leave (more information about leave zone areas HERE).

The same warning has been given to those in southern NSW around Batlow, Khancoban and the Kosciuszko National Park.

The Premier has declared a week-long state of emergency, which will allow forced evacuations of residents where necessary.

A statewide Total Fire Ban is in place until Sunday and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott will return this morning from his European holiday.

There are significant traffic delays as people head north on the Princes Highway.

Up-to-date information about road closures is available HERE.

NSW RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers tells Natalie Peters and Erin Molan locals need to move out of the danger zones.

“Given the amount of fires down there, we just need people to be out of the way of these major fires.

“We get that we’re going to lose homes tomorrow but we don’t want to lose lives.”

Click PLAY below to hear the full interview

90-year-old Margaret called John Stanley in distress, concerned about her granddaughter who is stuck at Lake Conjola.

“They’ve been in their car since 2 o’clock yesterday… they haven’t moved an iota.”

Click PLAY below to hear the full interview

Lake Conjola Entrance Road is closed between the Princes Highway and Norman Street, but police have since confirmed they will send patrols to assist people in getting out of the area.

Listener Pamela, who just returned from the South Coast, says she was stuck for many hours overnight near Milton while trying to get home.

She holds back tears as she tells John Stanley about the kindness of strangers who generously helped those who were fleeing.

“The people down there were just so caring. We went to the civic centre, we had a beautiful meal for dinner, we were offered toiletries, we were offered showers, we were offered places to stay.

“A lady came round and asked us if we wanted to stay at her place.

“This morning we were sitting in the car about two o’clock and a lady just kept coming back and forth and asking ‘everyone right for drinks?’ or ‘would anyone like something to eat?’

“Somebody else was handing out water, just dozens of plastic packs of water and just leaving them on the side of the road for the people.”

Click PLAY below to hear the full call

 

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Image: Getty/Peter Parks

JOHN STANLEY
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