A massive bushfire has engulfed a small town in southeastern Australia, destroying more than 100 buildings and forcing hundreds of residents to flee to beaches or evacuate to nearby towns, authorities said.
The fire, which has burned 1,200 hectares of bush, hit the coastal town of Tathra in New South Wales (NSW) on Sunday evening.
Extreme heat and strong winds contributed to the quick spread of bushfire, leading to mass evacuations, according to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
There are no reports of residents missing or seriously injured, though a number of people have been treated for smoke inhalation, she said.
Firefighters saved approximately 400 houses from the flames, but 69 homes were destroyed and 39 damaged. The fire also destroyed 30 caravans or cabins, according to the Rural Fire Service
Some residents fled to the beach to avoid the flames, as the temperature rose to 41 degrees Celsius (106 Farenheit), as reported by Reuters.
“I walked to the beach for 5km with over 200 people to try to get away,” a local, Simone Ward, told CNN.
Ward, who later evacuated to the nearby coastal town of Bermagui, praised the community spirit in the Bega Valley, saying the quick thinking of the locals has been “phenomenal.”
“Everyone wants to help. Everyone who’s seen those flames and that fire is so brave. It was so scary to be so close, you could see the flames and the explosions.”
Chris Bowles, a tourist who is road-tripping around Australia in a van, posted on Instagram pictures of the flames rising above the trees and the houses in Tathra.
“We could see houses on fire as we drove away,” he wrote.