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Farming family faces bleak future after deadly Australian bushfires

WANDELLA, Australia: There is little that Australia's deadly bushfires didn't take from dairy and cattle farmers Tim and Warren Salway.

For nearly two days over New Year the brothers battled fierce blazes that tore through the family's farms, the flames igniting on multiple fronts and wiping out almost everything in their path.

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The pair's father, Robert, and brother, Patrick, died trying to defend their properties. All the family farms were burned to ashes and debris, and hundreds of cattle killed.

"I keep saying to myself that it's not that bad, but it is that bad. It's f****** terrible," said Tim Salway, 42, shaking his head in disbelief at he looked at his burnt out dairy farm near the town of Cobargo in New South Wales state.

Warren Salway fought back tears as he described his anguish at discovering his brother and father had died, and how other farmers donated their hay to keep his farm going.

"People have just turned up, they all want to help," he said.

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READ: Hot and dry Australia could join the ranks of 'climate refugees'

The scale of the recovery facing the two fifth-generation farmers is huge. Destroyed machinery, felled trees and blackened farmland were surrounded by miles of damaged fencing on Tim Salway's farm. Metal tanks were melted and hay and cattle sheds worth tens of thousands of dollars were flattened.

Fifth-generation dairy farmer Salway is seen at his farm in Wandella. (Photo: Reuters)

Salway lost 170 cows, including one that was so badly burned that it had to be shot.

"They're the only heifers I've got left," he said, pointing to 30 cows gathering curiously, the sky behind them blanketed by haze from fires still burning on the other side of the valley.

"I've got no heifers for the next three years, they all got wiped in the fire. Just in cattle, if I look to replace them you're looking at A$300,000 (US$207,000)."

Monster bushfires have razed bushland equivalent to the size of Bulgaria since the start of October, killing 28 people, destroying more than 2,500 homes and killing millions of animals.

A destroyed storage facility is seen in front of the remaining calves of dairy farmer Salway in his farm in Wandella. (Photo: Reuters)

The remaining calves of dairy farmer Tim Salway drink water at his farm in Wandella, near the town of Cobargo, Australia Jan 13, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)

"The noise of it was like jumbo jets … It snapped trees in half," Tim Salway said of the fires that destroyed much of the Cobargo farms. "I watched the flames get sucked down the hill, there was a boom, an almighty thump. It was my dad and my brother. It's like a bomb's gone off."

Warren Salway's wife Helen, who has cancer, took refuge in a nearby town while he raced through smoke-filled lanes to get back to his cattle farm, twice running his truck off the road.

"ANNIHILATED"

The bushfires crisis deals a further blow to farmers already struggling following a three-year drought, which has been credited with fuelling the fires.

"It's just annihilated us," said Warren Salway. &quRead More – Source