Bushfire Victims Stranded With 600 Cattle Need Feed 'Now Or They Die'
At least 18 people are trapped after fire ripped through the Belowra Valley on New Year’s Eve, cutting off access to the rural area.
More than 600 cattle survived the inferno at Belowra, an hour and a half from Bodalla, but all feed has been destroyed.
“It was devastating ... sheets of fire swirled in all directions and giant fire balls were exploding everywhere,” resident Deb Dance told 10 daily.
“We were so well prepared, everything was cleared and watered down, we even had water tankers but it was just awesome – and I don’t mean in a good way.
Dance said the sky turned black and the hay shed caught fire, along with their tractor as embers blew up into the roof of the house.
"I ran in to grab the dogs and then we just had to get out," she said.
The family only survived by standing in a cleared paddock, surrounded by smoke and fire as they helplessly watched their home, paddocks and sheds burn.
One Belowra man in is still listed as missing and a number of properties were destroyed. Alarmingly, so were the bridges that provide the only road access to the rural area.
There are now at least seven cattle producers in the valley with no resources to keep more than 600 cattle, including calves, alive.
“They start dying if we don’t get emergency feed flown in tomorrow,” Dance said.
“The cattle are stressed, any ground cover that was there has been burnt and all our hay store was destroyed.”
Deb’s husband Keith Dance is among locals working to re-open the road.
But progress is slow and still may not be enough to allow truck access in time.
The family can organise hay to be delivered from Canowindra, but it would need to be airlifted into the valley.
“In the short term we need emergency feed dropped in by air or the calves will start dying in a few days and the cattle by the end of the week,” Dance said.
Military helicopters are being used to support Victorian fire victims. But the same assistance is currently not being deployed to help NSW communities like Belowra.
The majority of residents are now sheltering at the Belowra fire shed.
Ken Garner is the officer in charge of the forward command post for the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Local Land Services (LLS). He told 10 daily there are plans to send a helicopter in with an assessment team on Thursday.
"Once we know what the requirements and issues are we will then look at air drops with fodder if that’s the only way in out," Garner said.
Family of the stranded residents are also pleading for assistance in delivering necessities for the farmers like food and shelter until escape is possible.
“They need swags or blankets if they can’t open the roads,” Keith’s daughter Bec Dance explained.
“They all need help including rescue food drops and fodder drops, we need to make this happen.”