As Australia calls in more army reservists to battle bushfires across the country, Sky’s special correspondent Alex Crawford flew over some of the worst hit areas.
There was a near white-out in the skies above Batemans Bay in New South Wales (NSW). From our helicopter, we could see dozens of fires – under us, on the horizon, to the right, to the left.
Everywhere we looked there were plumes of smoke. We travelled by air along the coast from Bawley Point to Moruya – a stretch of more than 43 miles (70km) – as our helicopter pilot scoured the area for fresh outbreaks.
Image: Sky News’ special correspondent Alex Crawford flew across the fires in New South Wales
Above Batemans Bay, a popular holiday destination and oyster farming area, the landscape looks unrecognisable – a mass of smoke plumes dotted all over the town.
Beautiful beaches which fringe the coastline are now scarred by large sections of burned land. In many cases, the fire has been halted only by the Tasman Sea which sits between Australia and New Zealand.
Our pilot, James Williams, told us: “This is our job. We’re trained to do this but it’s devastating seeing the effect these fires are having on the communities.”
There was a team of three air crews trying to fight one large fire in front of us.
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They were desperately ferrying thousands of litres of water to the area but as we hovered near them, the giant buckets of liquid they were offloading seemed miniscule in comparison to the smoke and flames billowing below.
Firefighters have been pleading with people to leave but still some are reluctant to abandon their homes.
Image: Bushfires in Bairnsdale, Victoria. Pic: Glen Morey/Reuters
Image: The skies above New South Wales were red
Winds of more than 80mph have been recorded in some areas which has helped to fan the flames and spread embers over vast areas, igniting other fires.
Our helicopter was flying through a sky burned orange by the flames and smoke clouds. The suffocating air was inside our helicopter and the temperatures outside were registering more than 40C.
As we were in the air, there were around 150 fires burning in New South Wales (NSW) alone, with authorities worrying about being overwhelmed here, as well as the neighbouring states of Victoria and South Australia.
The NSW premier warned the population to expect “a very long night ahead”.
Image: Fire trucks in Bodalla, New South Wales
Image: Helicopters dump water on bushfires as they approach homes located on the outskirts of the town of Bargo in Sydney
More than 30,000 homes around Batemans Bay have lost power altogether as the fires brought down power lines. The situation changes by the hour with road closures springing up as fires flare unexpectedly.
It is a monumental challenge for the Rural Fire Service and the police coping with this bushfire crisis – and testament to their dedication that the number of casualties has not been significantly higher.
Below, as we saw swathes of bush devastated by fires still raging, environmentalists warned us of the impact this crisis will have on countless species – pushing some to extinction.
Image: Firefighters hose down trees around the town of Nowra in New South Wales on New Year’s Eve
Image: A koala drinks water from a firefighter in Cudlee Creek, South Australia
Australia desperately needs rain – for its humans, its animals, flora and wildlife – but so far there is none forecast.
By the time we landed, the police had closed down yet more roads near Bawley Point, shepherding residents and tourists away.
“We’re just keeping our fingers crossed really,” said one resident.
Source : Sky News