Ex-Potters Bar teacher caught up in Australia inferno

PUBLISHED: 09:45 11 February 2009 | UPDATED: 21:15 26 October 2009

A firefighter tries to tackle the flames (Picture by David Caird and courtesy of The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, Australia)

A firefighter tries to tackle the flames (Picture by David Caird and courtesy of The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, Australia)

A FORMER Potters Bar teacher living just miles from Australia's worst-ever bush fires said conditions were 'comparable to the end of the world'. James King, who lived and taught in the town 10 years ago, spoke to the BBC about the horrific scenes in the s

The fire continues to burn, threatening homes in the area (Picture by Stuart Mcevoy and courtesy of The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, Australia)

A FORMER Potters Bar teacher living just miles from Australia's worst-ever bush fires said conditions were "comparable to the end of the world".

James King, who lived and taught in the town 10 years ago, spoke to the BBC about the horrific scenes in the state of Victoria, where at least 180 people have died.

The former Mount Grace teacher, who now lives in Melbourne, said: "I knew something was not right.

"The sky went crimson with ash and I could smell all the smoke in the atmosphere.

"It was like a thick, dense, dirty fog. There was smoke everywhere.

"It looked like Armageddon or something from a horror movie.

"I hope I never experience anything like that again."

Temperatures hit 47C last week, combined with Australia's biggest drought for a century.

The 34-year-old told BBC News: "The day started warm and then increased and increased until it was really terrible. With the winds as well it's like standing in a convection oven.

"In heat like that there is nothing you can do; you feel like you are melting.

"It takes your breath away."

Mr King, whose home is just 30 miles from the devastation, added: "In the afternoon the temperature dropped quickly. I have never experienced anything like it.

"It went from 46C to 26C in minutes. I have no idea what caused it."

When it was finally cool enough for James to talk with his neighbours, he said their mood was very low.

"People are feeling a great sadness and empathy," he said, "and frustration with not being able to do anything about it.

"Arson is suspected so there is also a lot of anger at those who started the fire, and the feeling that the government is not doing enough.

"The government has given people A$10,000 to start rebuilding.

"But with prices of land around here that is nothing.

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