Panicked locals are sheltering on the NSW south coast as bushfires create giant plumes of black smoke likened to “armageddon”.
Bushfire conditions are deteriorating as a southerly sweeps through the state and pushes raging blazes northwards, opening new fire fronts.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has confirmed two people, a father and son, have died in the small coastal town of Cobargo, and another is missing.
— Daniel Sutton (@danielsutton10) December 31, 2019
Shoalhaven City Council Mayor Amanda Findley said as many as 300 people are sheltering at the Ulladulla Civic Centre from the 227,000-hectare Currowan fire.
The blaze, which has been burning for weeks, has now generated its own thunderstorm, causing dry lightning, spiralling smoke and rapid fire spread.
“We’ve got a lot of people who are very anxious and concerned about what’s going on,” Ms Findley told AAP.
“The wind change has just hit and that is absolutely a concern.
“The air quality here is OK but we can see smoke from other places – it’s like an armageddon smoke cloud to the north.”
The NSW Rural Fire Service says it is too late to leave for those in Ulladulla and south of Nowra, while Broulee and Fishermans Paradise have been scorched.
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
Residents have evacuated to the beach in the town of Batemans Bay, which is surrounded by the Currowan fire to the north and the 31,000-hectare Clyde Mountain fire to the south and east.