The bushfire that continues to rage at Wandandian, south of Nowra, has destroyed almost 4000 hectares since it began on Monday night.
Witness Peter Christopher, who travelled along the newly-reopened Princes Highway, told the Mercury of the devastating destruction and charred landscape.
‘‘There’s burnt-out bush all around,’’ he said. ‘‘There are melted road signs. I can see a farmhouse still standing, and horses still standing but the bush is really badly burned on both sides of the highway.
‘‘The police are stopping traffic. We got stopped just before Bendalong and the police are letting 50 to 100 cars through with police escort.
‘‘We’re seeing the cars come [heading south], there are two highway patrols heading south, then 100 to 150 cars behind them. We’re travelling very slowly.
‘‘The bush and grass is absolutely destroyed but houses are okay. (The firefighters) have done a great job. A lot of tree stumps are still smoking on both sides of the highway. Traffic is going about 60km/h.
‘‘Sussex Inlet is open to traffic. We’ve come through in about half an hour from Mollymook to Sussex Inlet. We’re heading to Wandandian.’’
The witness also saw a home along the highway that had been completely surrounded by the fire, but was miraculously still standing.
The blaze closed the Princes Highway for almost 20 hours after the fire crossed the highway late yesterday afternoon and began to pose a threat to Sussex Inlet.
Hundreds of residents and holidaymakers fled the coastal town to evacuation centres set up at Sussex Inlet RSL and Sussex Inlet Bowling Club. An evacuation centre was also set up at Bomaderry Bowling Club for residents who were cut off from their homes by the closure of the Princes Highway.
Firefighters are continuing to battle the blaze, which has a perimeter of 44 kilometres and is considered out of control.