The road leading out of Kinglake – once a picturesque mountain town just 57 kilometres north-east of the state’s capital Melbourne – now looks like a scene from an apocalypse movie, with burnt-out cars twisted on the side of the road, crumpled and blackened in head-on collisions, and stopped in their tracks by fallen 40-metre trees.
After watching his house burn to the ground, Michael O’Meara and his family spent a night under wet blankets in a paddock, while the fires ripped through his community.
"It was like a fire storm – jumping over ridges and spotting. When the fire got to town, it flew in the air and it rained down, and there were spotfires over a three kilometre area. Then everything simultaneously combusted."
Once Michael and his family escaped Kinglake, they had to contend with the roads. "There were no less than 24 cars which had head-on [collisions], all gutted. Unfortunately, a lot of death and destruction."
Everyone who escaped and sought refuge has a harrowing tale to tell. Many have lost their homes or loved ones, but feel lucky to be alive and safe. The reality of having to start again has not quite settled in.
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