January 6, 2020 / 8:41 AM / 13 days ago

Fireballs 'like a hurricane' bring death and devastation in Australia

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Just when John Aish and his partner Jenny Shea thought they had beaten the inferno ravaging their two properties in Australia’s south east on New Year’s Eve, a roaring fireball came through forcing them to flee.

Cobargo resident John Aish walks through the remains of his destroyed home in Cobargo, Australia January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy

Aish and Shea did not see each other until the following morning. They are now camping near Cobargo, about 10 km (6.2 miles) away from their hometown of Wandella.

“We tried really hard. We thought we’d had it beat but the big fireballs came and I said, ‘come on kids, we got to go’,” Shea told Reuters.

“Glad we got out when we did.”

Fires have ripped through more than 8 million hectares (19.8 million acres) of land this summer fire season, an area nearly the size of Austria, razing thousands of building and leaving some towns without electricity and mobile coverage.

“Everything’s just gone. We’ve got nothing,” Aish said.

Police on Monday confirmed the death of a 71-year-old man on the south coast of New South Wales (NSW) state who was reported missing on Dec. 31, bringing the death toll to 25.

Among those dead were Aish and Shea’s neighbours, a father and a son, killed that same night battling the fires.

“I’d say, like a hurricane. Just bloody quick and, just hard to describe,” Aish told Reuters as he described the fire.

“The noise was just like a bloody jet, jet engine like just got louder and louder and, just the roar of the wind and that sort of thing.”

Writing by Swati Pandey; Editing by Robert Birsel

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