Australian PM Takes Aerial Tour of NSW Megafire

AAP
By AAP
December 23, 2019Australia
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Australian PM Takes Aerial Tour of NSW Megafire
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and Commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service Shane Fitzsimmons talk to volunteers at The Picton Evacuation Centre in Picton, Australia, on Dec. 22, 2019. (Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday took an aerial tour of the bushland where the Gospers Mountain megafire destroyed dozens of buildings around the Bilpin, Dargan and Clarence areas in the Blue Mountains over the weekend, before arriving in Mudgee to meet evacuated residents and NSW Rural Fire Service members.

Residents fled their homes on Saturday night after the massive Gospers Mountain and Oakey Creek fires joined, creating what locals have described as a “fireball” that tore through the area north west of the Blue Mountains.

Morrison spoke with locals staying at the Mudgee Evacuation Centre who were nervously waiting to hear if their homes—saved once already on the weekend—were again about to be in the path of the megafire after it changed direction.

Ilford family John and Nova Cunningham and their three children arrived at the Mudgee Evacuation Centre at 11pm on Saturday, and have been forced to remain in town while they wait for an update about their home.

“There was a fireball that came through, it was this huge roar and that’s when it just hit everybody and we had to leave,” Ms Cunningham said.

“Our house is okay we think and we’re hoping to hear an update today if we can return, but the wind has changed the fire’s direction so we’re definitely not in the clear yet.”

Mr Cunningham said he thought it was “good” Mr Morrison had visited but felt he probably shouldn’t have gone on holiday last week.

“I believe everyone is entitled to a holiday, but I think as the voice of the people he probably should have stayed.

“I think it’s a good thing he made the time to come out though,” Mr Cunningham said.

Running Stream farmers Diana, 73 and Keith, 76 Rutter said they were pleased Morrison visited the evacuation centre but didn’t think he should have cut his holiday on Hawaii short to do so.

“He shouldn’t have come back from holiday early, because he’s going to be needed so much more in the new year,” Ms Rutter said.

“And what difference does it make, okay it’s good for moral but when he came back he would have been refreshed because he’s going to have a hard time when this is over and done with, there’s so much damage to NSW.”

Mr Rutter said the fire came within a foot of his back door on Saturday, but the blaze has since changed direction and is headed back toward his home.

“So far were okay, some of my animals got a bit singed, but now the worry is the fire is coming back,” he said.

The Rutter’s son is a volunteer with the RFS and has been away fighting fires since they started.

“He’s a farmer so when it started he just went and he’s been fighting the fires ever since,” Mr Rutter said.

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