Sunshine Coast couple nnie Caughey and Jake van Beelen have shared their story of escaping the horrifying fire that unfolded while they were travelling through New South Wales.
Sunshine Coast couple nnie Caughey and Jake van Beelen have shared their story of escaping the horrifying fire that unfolded while they were travelling through New South Wales. Contributed

Coast couple’s terrifying escape from apocalyptic fire

A SUNSHINE Coast couple caught up in the midst of terrifying bushfires have escaped with their lives after being forced to flee the south coast of New South Wales.

With no power, no drinking water, no communications, no contact with emergency services, Annie Caughey and Jake van Beelen were two of thousands of people in the thick of it.

The pair have been touring the country in a van for the past six months and were on a slow crawl up the south Coast of NSW when the nightmare unfolded.

>> COAST TEAM CAUGHT IN HUGE FIRE STORM ON BUCKET-LIST TRIP

Coast couple Jake van Beelen and Annie Caughey had their south coast holiday cut short.
Coast couple Jake van Beelen and Annie Caughey had their south coast holiday cut short.

It was the morning of New Year's Eve when the couple woke in Bermagui to "pitch black" darkness at 6am with emergency evacuation messages from authorities.

The night before they'd been contemplated camping in the bush.

If not for a gut feeling of the dangers, they might have perished.

"Instead we slept by the water, thank god we did," Ms Caughey said.

 

Coast couple Jake van Beelen and Annie Caughey at the evacuation centre in Narooma where they stayed for two days before the entire town was forced to leave.
Coast couple Jake van Beelen and Annie Caughey at the evacuation centre in Narooma where they stayed for two days before the entire town was forced to leave.

 

Nearby a 72-year-old man tragically was confirmed dead by local police.

The yet to be identified man was one of eight people to have died in the south coast with the area now declared a state of emergency.

With roads closed throughout the small town, only one exit and cars bumper-to-bumper with fleeing families, the pair had no choice but to join the queue.

"We were worried sick, everyone was … it was chaotic," Ms Caughey said.

"People were crying, you could hardly see a thing with the smoke."

Coast couple Jake van Beelen and Annie Caughey were two of thousands of families in the thick of the terrifying NSW bushfires.
Coast couple Jake van Beelen and Annie Caughey were two of thousands of families in the thick of the terrifying NSW bushfires.

 

"No power is the worst thing, you can't update family, you have no Rural Fire Service app, you're just so isolated."

Eventually the couple decided to drive up the steep Brown Mountain hill and risk breaking down in the steep climb.

They drove to Ms Caughey's sister's house in Canberra where they're currently getting by.

Speaking from Canberra, the emotionally drained 25-year-old said the pair felt lucky but heartbroken.

 

Coast couple Jake van Beelen and Annie Caughey at the evacuation centre in Narooma where they stayed for two days before the entire town was forced to leave.
Coast couple Jake van Beelen and Annie Caughey at the evacuation centre in Narooma where they stayed for two days before the entire town was forced to leave.

 

"I spoke to so many people who had been separated from families, completely sure they'd lost their entire homes …

"There were so many families displaced people were wandering around the evacuation with their pet horses, goats, dogs but they were so positive despite everything.

"They were just watching out for one another.

"It helped keep people calm, everyone dealt with it in the best way possible."

The pair aren't completely out of the woods with "ferocious" fires headed for the nation's capital, so they're heading to Sydney and to safety.



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