AN IRISHMAN has detailed the terrifying scenes he witnessed first-hand with his family during the ongoing Australian wildfires.
At least 20 people have been killed in fires affecting the states of New South Wales and Victoria with dozens more still missing.
More than 1300 homes have already been destroyed with thousands urged to flee by Australian authorities with a week-long state of emergency in place.
Diarmuid O’Connor, his wife and two daughters are among those caught up in the wildfires.
The family, who live in Sydney, were on a camping holiday in Bateman’s Bay when it became apparent that they would need to evacuate
Waking on New Year’s Eve, they were sent to a nearby beach for protection as the fire inched closer to where they were staying.
Describing the situation during an interview on RTE Radio One’s Today With Sean O’Rourke, O’Connor said the family spent two terrifying hours on the beach “while the fires burned around us”.
“I thought were ok but then we saw there were a lot of water bombers coming into the town, dropping loads of water… It was a very intense couple of hours,” he said.
Even after those fires dissipated, the Co Clare man encountered more danger later that day.
“We eventually got back to the campsite, later on, but we had another big scare then,” O’Connor said.
“The sky went completely orange, there was no visibility, smoke everywhere. It got very scary.
“It’s just been mayhem for two days. There’s been no communications — no power, no internet, no phone.
“The lack of communication has been a big issue, people didn’t know what the situation was, or what roads were open to leave the town.”
Thankfully his family escaped unscathed and were in the process of evacuating on the busy Princes Highway in New South Wales at the time of the interview
At the time of writing, more than 5m hectares of land has burned in the Australian wildfires.
That equates to an area larger than either the Netherlands or Denmark.