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.
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.
My family left Batemans Bay going south on the Princes Highway to Canberra this morning at like 5:30am. They’ve made it to Cooma and are gonna stop for a break💜 They’ve made it out.— Ann💜 (@botaenn) January 2, 2020
The past couple of days have been a nightmare. https://t.co/t5Z2p8zEQK
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.
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.
This was the Princes highway just down from Sussex Inlet Rd in the Shoalhaven region. The Currowan fire jumped the road. Flames dangerously close and extremely low visibility @SkyNewsAust pic.twitter.com/vpia8MMxQo— Julia Bradley (@_juliabradley) January 2, 2020
My family tried to leave today, but the Princes Highway is closed again. They’ve turned back to Batemans Bay.— Ann💜 (@botaenn) January 2, 2020
They need to be out by Saturday as fire conditions are expected to worsen to catastrophic. https://t.co/Ffj1K07SmH
My friend has set up a roadside food and beverage stall, offering free snacks to those stuck on the Princes Highway at Milton due to road closures because of the Currowan fire. I love my community 🙌🏼💕 pic.twitter.com/SwQT2fZXqL— Emily Barton (@emilybarton1211) January 2, 2020