Australia

Father and son dead, man missing as more than 100 fires continue to burn across NSW

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There has been two more deaths from fires on the NSW South Coast as officials warn people to brace themselves for more property damage in the next 48 hours.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has warned the state to brace for significant property loss after a horror day of bushfires terrorised the south-east coast.

Dozens of properties are believed to have been destroyed in the Batemans Bay region and two dairy farmers, identified by media as Robert Salway and his son Patrick, were tragically killed after attempting to protect their property at Wandella, near Cobargo. 

Meanwhile, a 73-year-old man remains missing at Belowra, approximately 50km from Cobargo, as more than 100 bushfires, including a number at emergency level, continue to lash the state.

The bodies of the 63-year-old and his 29-year-old were found by a family member on Tuesday morning after she left them to protect their the previous night, NSW Police said in a statement.

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Addressing media on Tuesday evening, NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said strong winds had driven "aggressive fire behaviour" along the state's south-east coast. 

"We need to brace ourselves for the loss of a considerable number of properties and homes," he said on Tuesday. "It is going to be a long difficult, dangerous night ahead. It is going to be a dangerous day ahead tomorrow."

Coastal communities from Nowra towards Narooma and Bega were still under threat, he said, while adding that another emergency level fire had flared up near populated areas at Charmhaven on the Central Coast.

"We have a number of fires there that are still problematic and subject to the weather conditions and the spread under those weather conditions," he said.

The latest update comes as telecommunications, including home phones and mobile, cut out across the region due extensive power outages in the Batemans Bay area.

Earlier on Tuesday, NSW Police confirmed all power had been cut from South Nowra to Moruya and "potentially beyond" and unlikely to be restored for 24 hours. 

"The power outage also affects communication lines and therefore some landlines are not operating which means internet is also affected. Additionally, communication towers have been affected impacting mobile services," the statement read. 

Essential Energy - which manages electricity in the area - on Tuesday warned people to expect "potentially extended power outages" as crews were unable to access the firegrounds.

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'Tragic set of circumstances'

NSW Police deputy commissioner Gary Worboys said the death of the two men was due to 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," he 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."

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said there were early reports that the missing individual was a volunteer firefighter. 

"We have grave concerns and we really need police to access the location," he said. 

More than 100 fires continue to burn

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said more than 100 fires continued to burn across the state, with more than half currently uncontained.

"This fire season is unprecedented in so many ways," he said. "Fires start easily. They are spreading quickly. They are proving difficult to suppress and contain. We have seen extraordinary fire behaviour, volatile fire behaviour, with extraordinary spot fire activity."

The main street of the historic town of Cobargo, to the west of Bermagui, was destroyed by fire on Tuesday, with significant property loss expected for the region. 

Extreme fire danger is forecast for the Southern Ranges, Illawarra and ACT on New Year's Eve while surrounding regions - including Sydney, the Hunter and the far south coast - are set for severe fire danger.

Total fire bans are in place for more than half of the state's 21 fire districts.

The Clyde Mountain fire, to the south of the persistent 226,000 hectare Currowan blaze, is now impacting Batemans Bay. Massive traffic queues to escape the township have popped up on Beach Road.

'Armageddon smoke'

Shoalhaven City Council Mayor Amanda Findley said as many as 300 people were sheltering at the Ulladulla Civic Centre from the 227,000-hectare Currowan fire.

The blaze, which has been burning for weeks, had 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 on Tuesday.

"The wind change has just hit and that is absolutely a concern.

A fire generated thunderstorm has formed over the Currowan fire.
A fire generated thunderstorm has formed over the Currowan fire.
NSW Rural Fire Service

"The air quality here is OK but we can see smoke from other places - it's like an armageddon smoke cloud to the north."

Mogo Wildlife Park director Chad Staples said staff had been working to shelter animals from the Clyde Mountain fire.

"Any species that was small or in an area that we couldn't protect - we caught up," Mr Staples told the ABC.

"Right now in my house there are animals of all description that are safe and protected.

"For the dangerous animals - the lions, tigers, orangutans - we encouraged them to the night den and kept them calm to protect them at that site."

With additional reporting from AAP

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