Australia bush fires: Overwhelming sense of loss as people count cost disaster

14 November 2019, 02:45 | Updated: 14 November 2019, 08:22

Returning to the wreckage, Chris Sudell surveys the remnants of his family home.

The once proud wooden and brick structure has been reduced to a tiny wall filled with ash.

"We are standing at the moment in our bedroom and you can see the remains of our bed there," he explains.

It is hard to envisage what this much-loved property had been like.

The bed he gestures to is now just a twisted pile of sticks.

Bush fires tore through the house in the Australian state of New South Wales on Friday, destroying everything in their path

The family had two hours to gather what they could and run.

This is the first time Mr Sudell has properly seen the damage in daylight.

"It's just horrible. I mean everything we have, it's gone," he says.

Chris' wife, Jenny, watches on as he summons the ghosts of their stolen life.

For more than a decade this was the place eight of the family children were raised, where they kept treasured baby photographs and love letters, but it's all gone.

"It's devastating," she tells me. "You go through all the stages of grief - you're angry, you're sad, you joke about it and then you're just sort of angry you didn't do more."

The anger is natural but in reality there was little they could do against the inferno.

Even a metal shipping container was no protection from the intense heat.

Inside once familiar furniture is reduced to charred, flimsy skeletons.

More than 300 homes in eastern Australia have been destroyed in the recent bush fires and four people have died.

When you walk around the blackened neighbourhoods there is an overwhelming sense of loss.

"The only reason we came back was for closure. I don't really want to come back again, I've seen what I need to see," Jenny says, sadly staring at the piles of ash.

"I can see there's nothing salvageable at all and I can see the state of the place. I just needed some closure, to know it was final."

"So that's it, you'll never live here again?" I ask.

"No," she replies.

The Sudell's pain is repeated hundreds, if not thousands of times across this east coast as families grieve for their old lives lost to the flames.