Brace for a return to hell as danger flares again
Firefighters fear more property and lives will come under threat on Friday as soaring temperatures and vigorous winds threaten to fan out-of-control bushfires burning across NSW.
South coast residents are again bracing themselves for another day of extreme fire danger, while authorities are urging holiday-makers to evacuate the area.
It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison raised the prospect of a royal commission into the bushfires during a conference call with Coalition MPs on Thursday.
Mr Morrison told MPs a national royal commission would be seriously looked at but was something to consider "down the track", according to Sky News.
More than 120 fires continue to burn across NSW, with more than 2500 firefighters on the frontline.
The Bureau of Meteorology warned temperatures on the south coast will reach the mid-30s on Friday, before a gusty southerly change, reminiscent of Saturday's "hellish" conditions.
"Under those conditions that fire was moving very, very quickly and the spotting can catch you very easily," RFS deputy incident controller John Cullen told residents of Bega on Thursday. "You think it's going to come from one way then it turns and comes from the other way."
He warned residents they should leave their homes if they do not have the "mental strength" and resources to fight the unrelenting bushfires.
Eurobodalla Shire Council said residents living on the bushy fringes of Narooma, Moruya, Tuross and Batemans Bay to be prepared to leave their homes.
"The first and best option is to stay with friends or family in a main town," the council said on Facebook. "Otherwise be ready to attend your nearest evacuation centre."
Police have been deployed to Eurobodalla to assist in the emergency operations and patrol evacuated areas. Highway patrol and other officers have been highly visible at evacuation centres across the fire affected regions.
Source: NASA Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) satellite data. MODIS active fire location represents the centre of a 1km pixel that is flagged by the algorithm as containing one or more fires within the pixel. When map is zoomed out, the size of the markers provide location only and may give a false impression of total area affected. Zoom in and pan for a more accurate view of areas where fires are active, or have been active since November 1. Isolated fire pixels may reflect fire detection not related to bushfires.
More than 1,600 Australian Defence Force reservists have also been deployed to bushfire grounds across the country as emergency services brace for more horror conditions on the east coast.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in NSW and the ACT the current operational focus was on re-establishing power to blacked out communities.
"There have been thousands of homes and customers who have been reconnected just in recent days but there are still many without power," he said.
"It is also about getting emergency support to impacted areas and tackling the damage and risk to key infrastructure, such as transmission lines, generators and there has been a particular effort through the defence force of supporting what is occurring at the Eden woodchip mill."
Mr Morrison said Naval assets remained off the south coast of NSW, supporting reconnaissance and prepared to assist with evacuations, while ADF medical personnel have been provided to Tumut Hospital and Batemans Bay.
"I should stress with the positioning of these assets, particularly the HMAS Adelaide and the Choules, that we are a long way from the end of this crisis and this disaster," he said.
"Their prepositioning along the coast is very important. These are significant assets with significant capabilities and provide a staging post to render any amount of assistance as required."
Mr Morrison said Victoria and NSW were about to go into some "difficult days" and the ADF would be on hand to assist.
"Everything from helicopters and engineering equipment and fully-staffed medical facilities will prove vital in the event they need to be called on at a moment's notice," he said.
In South Australia, the bushfire threat has escalated on Kangaroo Island, with Australian Defence Force officers on Thursday running door-to-door in the central town of Parndana, urging residents to pack their things and evacuate.
Residents were given just minutes to grab their valuables and flee to safety as a blaze that broke containment lines closed in on the township.
The town of Vivonne Bay on the south coast was also evacuated, with firefighters warning they will be unable to control a blaze burning in severe conditions.
Vivonne Bay was only just spared last week when fire roared through the western third of the island, destroying 56 homes.
The fire claimed two lives, father and son Dick Land, 78, and his 43-year-old son Clayton.
In Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews extended the State of Disaster declaration for another 48 hours as the state prepared for yet another day of extreme fire danger.
Forecasts of 40C in East Gippsland and low 40s in the northeast are heightening fears of major fires joining up creating devastating infernos.
The prime minister confirmed there have been 2,131 homes destroyed by bushfires across the country but said he was sure there would be more "over the coming days" as damage assessments take place.