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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Clinging on for dear life: Moment terrified family were forced to take refuge in the water as Australian wildfire tore through their town

By SIMON TOMLINSON

Fight for survival: Grandmother Tammy Holmes (second left) takes refuge under a jetty with her five grandchildren as wildfires tear through their town of Dunalley in Tasmania. Just about able to stand, she grabs hold of (from l-r) two-year-old Charlotte and four-year-old Esther, while nine-year-old Liam clings to the wooden structure to keep his head above water as 11-year-old Matilda also reaches for the jetty while supporting six-year-old Caleb

Huddling in the water with fear etched on their faces, this terrified family were forced to take refuge under a jetty for more than two hours as the Australian wildfires tore through their town.
As the blaze destroyed their home, Tammy and Tim Holmes led their five young grandchildren to the only place they hoped the flames could not reach them.
With the oxygen fast running out in the polluted air, they clung to the wooden structure and each other for support as their hopes faded of finding a way out of the hellish conditions.

Escaping the flames: The family's pet dog Polly sought safety on the jetty as the family huddled together in the water

At times, the fire took hold on the jetty itself, forcing Mr Holmes to scoop water from the sea to douse the flames.
Eventually, after two-and-a-half hours in the water, Mr Holmes finally managed to locate a dinghy which they used to flee to a hotel outside the fire zone.
Meanwhile, the children's mother, Bonnie Walker, feared her family had been killed.

Bracing themselves: The children prepare to enter the water to take refuge under the jetty as the wildfire rips through their grandparents' home

She had left her children - two-year-old Charlotte, four-year-old Esther, Liam, nine, 11-year-old Matilda and six-year-old Caleb - in the care of her parents while she attended a funeral.
Mrs Walker told how she drove to the service in Hobart, Tasmania, as fire ravaged the land either side of her and just made it through before the flames crossed the road and cut her off from her family.
She told Australia's ABC network: 'We just waited by the phone and received a message at 3.30pm to say that mum and dad had evacuated, that they were surrounded by fire, and could we pray.
'So I braced myself to lose my children and my parents.'

Thanked God: The children's mother, Bonnie Walker, was unaware of the impending danger when she drove off to attend a funeral and feared her family had been killed when she heard of the devastation

With the oxygen supply quickly running out in the polluted air, Mrs Walker said her father Tim Holmes 'rallied against all the odds' to retrieve the dinghy from the foreshore.
Mr Holmes told how he sent his wife, their grandchildren and pet dog Polly to the nearby sea jetty when he saw smoke from the looming wildfire rise from a nearby ridge.
Despite the arrival of three fire trucks, the 62-year-old realised he could not defend the home he built himself.

Divine intervention: A building burns near the jetty. The family credits God with their survival from the fire that destroyed around 90 homes in their town of Dunalley as the country was hit with record temperatures

'I looked at the firefighters and said, "I have to go to Tammy and the kids",' he told the West Australian.
'For the next two-and-a-half hours, we huddled under the jetty as the fire intensified and produced a plume of smoke, ash and debris that left us with very little oxygen.
'There were times when we had to move out deeper because it was too hot and there were times when the jetty itself caught fire. I was able to scoop some water onto the jetty and put it out.'

Ravaged: This satellite image shows a number of fires burning across the Australian island of Tasmania, including the top northwestern part and central parts, as well as in the south-central parts of the island, near Hobart

Hellish conditions: Firefighters battle the Dean's Gap bushfire near Wandandian, south of Nowra. Rural Fire Service crews lost control of the fire as strong winds and record temperatures fanned the flames

Damage control: A firefighter douses the flames as they tear through a property near Wandandian, south of Nowra in New South Wales

Keeping it under control: Firefighters douse burning logs from the Deans Gap fire near Nowra on the south coast of Australia's New South Wales state as cooler conditions helped crews battling blazes across Australia

source: dailymail



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