Skip to main content

Record numbers of people have been evacuated to four South Coast surf clubs which have been opened as evacuation centres as bushfires continue to burn out of control in southern NSW threatening lives and property.

With the Princes Highway closed in many locations due to multiple fires burning between Nowra and Bega, thousands of holidaymakers are unable to leave the area.

Tathra, Bermagui, Batemans Bay and Broulee surf clubs have all been declared evacuation centres for people seeking refuge from the bushfires.

An estimated 5,000 people are being sheltered at Bermagui Surf Life Saving Club. Approximately 1,500 of these people are locals. The remaining 3,500 are visitors to the area and will require accommodation tonight. Accommodation has been found for 550 of these people but 2,000 people may be without accommodation.

Over 178 People in Tathra are facing the same predicament and the community is being asked to render assistance by providing blankets and accommodation where possible.

Heavy smoke and poor air quality in the area is causing respiratory problems for many of the people reporting to the four evacuation centres. Volunteer surf lifesavers are providing first-aid oxygen therapy for those having breathing difficulties. However, road closures are preventing the supply of badly needed oxygen cylinders to allow ongoing treatment.

An ambulance has been called for five people in Broulee who are having breathing difficulty after smoke inhalation.

At Bermagui Surf Club, Surf Life Saving volunteers are assisting four general practitioners with first aid and oxygen therapy for those having difficulty breathing due to poor air quality in the area.

Police, Marine Rescue and Surf Life Saving NSW are currently meeting to identify the best way to conduct an on-water evacuation of some of the 5,000 people at Bermagui who require ongoing medical assistance – particularly those suffering acute breathing difficulties.

An on-water evacuation may involve ferrying people from the beach on Surf Life Saving NSW inflatable rescue boats (IRBs) to Marine Rescue and Police watercraft waiting off-shore.

At Broulee, 300 people have registered at the Broulee Surf Life Saving Club and are currently being accommodated on the beach.

Brett Richardson, Surf Life Saving NSW State Liaison Officer, is currently based at Rural Fire Service Headquarters in Sydney. He is assisting with the coordination of SLSNSW’s response and evacuation logistics on the South Coast.

Steven Pearce, CEO Surf Life Saving NSW said that Surf Life Saving NSW is working closely with the Rural Fire Service in response to this critical situation.

“Never before has Surf Life Saving NSW stood up these resources in a crisis like this. It’s unprecedented. Collectively, between four South Coast surf clubs, we have over 6,000 people’s lives being protected which demonstrates the benefits of surf clubs to the community – beyond the beach,” said Steven Pearce.

“As a CEO, I’ve never been prouder of our volunteer lifesavers working in these extreme conditions.

“We’re throwing all our support behind the Rural Fire Service. We have lifesavers in every emergency operations centre that’s been activated,” Pearce Concluded.

Tuesday 31 December 2019