A woman has told how she fled on horseback from raging Australian bushfires, returning home to find that thieves had ransacked her house.
Bec Winter had been monitoring bushfires near the coastal town of Moruya, around 150 miles south of Sydney, when she and son Riley and a cousin decided to evacuate.
While the other two drove towards the beach, Bec fled on her horse Charmer. But while she struggled to find the way in thick smoke, Charmer found the path to the beach where they sought refuge in a pub.
But when she returned home, she was distraught to find that her house had been ransacked and Riley’s new bike stolen.
Describing her escape from the flames, she told Reuters: “I could feel heat and I don’t know whether that was from the sun or... the fire... it was terrifying. But, I had so much faith in Charmer to get me out safely and she did that. She’s my hero.”
The relief was shortlived when she returned home after regrouping with family members.
“Well, home’s still standing but when we went back yesterday, all of our belongings have been thrown everywhere,” she said.
“Riley’s new bike he got for Christmas, stolen. The house is totally ransacked. Absolutely destroyed.”
Bec and her father shared their disappointment and shock on social media, the latter branding the perpetrators “low lifes” and their actions “the lowest of all acts”.
The incident isn’t the only one where thieves have taken advantage of evacuated homes.
Police in New South Wales (NSW) have stepped up patrols after reports of thefts from homes left vacant by people forced to evacuate.
NSW Police Force Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said in a statement: “With thousands of lives and homes at risk today, I can’t comprehend the type of person who’d think it’s okay to try and profit or benefit at other people’s expense.”
Australia is facing unprecedented bushfires, with more than 12.4 million acres burned so far and 23 people confirmed dead.
Tens of thousands of people have been ordered to leave parts of Australia's eastern coastline, with the south coast of New South Wales set to experience extreme danger from fires this weekend, with temperatures forecast to pass 40C (104F).