Fast-moving wildfire wipes out 69 homes in Tathra, Australia

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A fast-moving wildfire engulfed Tathra, a small seaside town with a population of 1 622 located on the Sapphire Coast of New South Wales, Australia late March 18, 2018, destroying at least 69 homes and damaging 39.

According to NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), the fire ran more than 7 km (4 miles) before it reached the town, leaving firefighters with a huge fire perimeter to contain.

At least 69 homes have been destroyed and another 39 damaged, RFS said, adding that locals were evacuated to a nearby town. There are no reports of anyone missing, but four people in Tathra region have been treated for smoke inhalation and one RFS volunteer has been injured.

Initial damage assessment has found 30 caravans and cabins were also destroyed, but 398 houses were saved or untouched.

RFS said the fire started Sunday afternoon and quickly got out of control. It jumped rivers and was 'like a perfect storm' with a combination of strong winds, hot temperatures, low humidity and dry bush.

"It is fair to say with how quickly that fire moved, there wasn't a lot of time. We are not talking hours here, we're talking minutes that people had warnings of this," RFS Deputy Fire Commissioner Rob Rogers said.

The fire is now under control and Monday afternoon wind was not expected to be as ferocious as Sunday afternoon's gusts.

Residents were warned that the fire was still active around the town and buildings still standing were not necessarily safe. In addition, a number of hazards like fallen trees and power lines are still present in the area.

"It is really a dangerous place for people to be at the moment and we are definitely asking people to remain outside the township of Tathra as the firefighters go about their work," RFS said.

Bega High School, Tathra Public School, Tanja Public School, and Bournda Environmental Education School are closed today.

Featured image: Town of Tathra in flames on March 18, 2018. Credit: TimberlineHeli

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