Thousands of Australians fleeing the bushfires are on the “highway from hell”, exhausted, hungry and enduring bumper to bumper traffic.
Thousands of Australians fleeing the bushfires are on the “highway from hell”, exhausted, hungry and enduring bumper to bumper traffic.

Bumper traffic, dwindling fuel and food, no phones

With fuel tanks emptying, bumper to bumper traffic, dwindling food supplies and price gouging of water en route, thousands of Australians are on a desperate exodus on a single main road fleeing bushfires.

New South Wales' A1 Princes Highway, which partially reopened on Friday, has become a hellish route of exodus for those getting out ahead of predicted shocking conditions on Saturday.

Along with the Australian navy rescue of residents from the Victorian town of Mallacoota, it has been described as the biggest evacuation operation in Australian history.

In what has been labelled a humanitarian crisis, exhausted motorists resumed their gruelling trek on Friday morning to escape fires on the NSW south coast.

This was after many of them slept overnight by their vehicles on sections of the highway.

With a reduced speed limits in place, sections still closed due to bushfires and others only available under police escort, heavy traffic was making for a slow journey.

Sections, such as between Sussex Inlet and Fishermans Paradise, near Jervis Bay, were under police escort due to the extreme caution needed because of existing fires.

Overnight, police had escorted 100 cars at a time on the stretch of highway between Milton and Nowra, with one convoy halted midway due to dangerous trees.

Residents fleeing fire-ravaged towns like Lake Conjola on Friday morning reported becoming stuck on feeder roads without a glimpse of the highway, sitting in their vehicles for hours with their children.

People queue for petrol in the smoke at Merimbula after bushfires cut off the entire south coast of NSW. Picture: Stuart McEvoy
People queue for petrol in the smoke at Merimbula after bushfires cut off the entire south coast of NSW. Picture: Stuart McEvoy

 

Thousands of people are evacuating the NSW south coast in what has been labelled a humanitarian crisis. Picture Gary Ramage
Thousands of people are evacuating the NSW south coast in what has been labelled a humanitarian crisis. Picture Gary Ramage

 

People expressed outrage at apparent price gouging, such as this $48 tag for 24 bottles of water.
People expressed outrage at apparent price gouging, such as this $48 tag for 24 bottles of water.

Some were low on supplies after desperate locals and tourists cleared supermarket shelves as they prepared to bunker down for conditions to worsen.

One woman claimed a Lake Conjola shop had doubled the price on all their products, selling a loaf of bread for $9.

One outraged person posted a photograph of a 24-pack of Mount Franklin water being sold for $48.

The image of the price tag was later claimed to have been a mistake.

Woolworths issued a statement on Friday thanking police for escorting delivery trucks of new stock for empty shelves on the south coast through the Princes Highway traffic jam.

A queue of people outside a public telephone booth en route was photographed after telephone reception was cut across the south coast of NSW.

The A1 Princes Highway had to be closed in various stretches this week as smoke and flames made it too hazardous for cars.

Live Traffic NSW confirmed on Friday morning there were "still long delays for northbound traffic, so continue to allow extra travel time".

Around 1pm on Friday, a section of road between Bendalong and Sussex Inlet near Conjola was closed in both directions due to a bushfire.

Authorities are bracing for severe bushfire conditions on Saturday and fear the national death toll for this horror season could climb beyond 18.

Emergency services described Saturday's expected heatwave as a "spike day" that could prove both dangerous and deadly for firefighters and the community.

A man sleeps on a sun-bed on the side of the Princes Highway.
A man sleeps on a sun-bed on the side of the Princes Highway.

 

The fire-ravaged town of Cobargo was left devastated after a father and son died and buildings were lost.
The fire-ravaged town of Cobargo was left devastated after a father and son died and buildings were lost.

 

Fires burning on the side of the road at the Sussex Inlet turn-off near Jervis Bay.
Fires burning on the side of the road at the Sussex Inlet turn-off near Jervis Bay.

 

People lining up to use a public telephone booth after telephone reception was cut across the south coast of NSW.
People lining up to use a public telephone booth after telephone reception was cut across the south coast of NSW.

 

 

Although closed sections of road continued to hamper the emergency evacuation further south, people expressed their relief at escaping the imminent danger.

One woman whose family had been vacationing on the south coast said on Twitter her family had now made it out after being turned back.

"My family left Batemans Bay going south on the Princes Highway to Canberra this morning at like 5:30am," Ann posted.

"They've made it to Cooma and are gonna stop for a break They've made it out. The past couple of days have been a nightmare."

On Instagram late on Thursday, a woman shared an image of a man sleeping on a sun-bed on the side of the road.

"NSW Bushfire evacuation, 12hrs to travel what would normally take 30mins. Staying safe, trying to stay sane, not home yet," wrote Shani.

Amid the horror, however, there were signs of hope and Aussie generosity, with one woman setting up a roadside stall for tired, hungry motorists and others making sandwiches to hand out.

Cars queued for hours in the hope of getting fuel for their journey. Picture: Gary Ramage
Cars queued for hours in the hope of getting fuel for their journey. Picture: Gary Ramage

Motorists were advised on Friday to generally avoid travel to the south coast and Snowy Mountains-Riverina areas, which had experienced widespread power outages and major road closures.

Sections of the Princes Highway south of Batemans Bay remain closed.

For those driving back to Sydney and Canberra from the south coast, one route was via the Snowy Mountains Highway between Bega and Adaminaby. However, due to smoke, visibility was poor.

The Adaminaby to Tumut section of the highway was open for residents only, while several other major alpine roads are exit-only or completely closed.

candace.sutton@news.com.au

Queues along the Princes Highway of residents or vacationers fleeing the south coast ahead of Saturday’s expected bad conditions. Picture: 9 News
Queues along the Princes Highway of residents or vacationers fleeing the south coast ahead of Saturday’s expected bad conditions. Picture: 9 News
Map showing the extent of the crisis in NSW as of 1.33pm on Friday. Picture: Live Traffic.
Map showing the extent of the crisis in NSW as of 1.33pm on Friday. Picture: Live Traffic.
Emily Barton posted an image of her friend’s roadside stall set up for tired, hungry motorists along the route. Picture: Twitter
Emily Barton posted an image of her friend’s roadside stall set up for tired, hungry motorists along the route. Picture: Twitter


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