BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Chinese Vietnamese Burmese Thai Indonesian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: Asia-Pacific  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
 Monday, 20 January, 2003, 13:45 GMT
Eyewitnesses tell of Canberra inferno
Burnt out cars
Hundreds of Canberra residents lost everything
Residents and firefighters in the Australian capital, Canberra - where bush fires killed four people and destroyed hundreds of homes - have been describing the ferocity of the blazes.

We've got our car packed with clothes and valuables, so that if we need to get away quickly we can

John Dickinson
Canberra resident

Phil Koperberg, the fire commissioner of New South Wales state, told the BBC that the worst might be over, but the threat remained.

"We don't expect to see weather conditions again like we saw Saturday, (when) cyclonic winds coupled with firestorms just ravaged the western and northern suburbs of Canberra," he told BBC radio's Today programme. "But there are still a lot of fires."

In some cases the flames were hundreds of metres high, Mr Koperberg said.

"We saw giant trees being uprooted and being flung burning among the houses, setting fire to them, crushing their roofs."

Mr Koperberg praised his men, who had had to deal with horrendous conditions.

"Firefighters are telling stories of rocks and stones several centimetres in diameter being blown - like you expect dust and sand to be blown - into their vehicles," he said.

Ready to go

John Dickinson, a South Canberra resident whose house was about 1.5 kilometres (one mile) away from the fire-front on Sunday night, said the wind had died down overnight and his neighbourhood escaped the flames - but many other areas did not.

Grief-stricken homeowner
More than 400 homes were destroyed

He told BBC News Online that while driving through central parts of Canberra on Monday, he saw entire streets where all the houses had been destroyed.

"People had been trying to collect belongings as much as they could," Mr Dickinson said.

"It looked as if someone had tried to drive a car across a grass verge to escape the fire, and obviously they had escaped on foot because the car had been burnt out."

Mr Dickinson says that although the danger seems to have receded in his area, he still feels threatened - especially since strong southern winds are expected later in the week.

"We've still got bathtubs and sinks full of water. We've got our car packed with clothes and valuables, so that if we need to get away quickly we can," he said.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  Phil Koperberg, New South Wales' rural fire chief
"The next few days are going to be fairly critical"
  John Dickinson
"We've got our car packed with clothes and valuables, so that if we need to get away quickly we can"

Key stories

TALKING POINT
See also:

20 Jan 03 | Science/Nature
19 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
06 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
05 Dec 02 | Entertainment
04 Dec 02 | Business
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes