Tourist lost escaping from bushfire

Tourist lost escaping from bushfire

10 August 2006

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Australia — A tourist became lost in the Territory outback after he was forced to run for his life from a raging bushfire.

Still-shaken Swiss visitor Ricca Johan, 21, last night told the Northern Territory News how he thought he would die after walking directly into the path of a fire at Katherine Gorge.

Mr Johan managed to escape the bushfire but became lost in his desperate bid to outrun the flames.

Mr Johan had to run for his life after a bushfire swept through Nitmiluk National Park while he was bushwalking between the Dunlop Swamp and Eighth Gorge campsites on Tuesday.

“My mind was thinking about my family and friends back in Switzerland — I didn’t think I would see them again,” Mr Johan said last night.

“It can be very tough for you when you think you are going to die but I kept telling myself it was not possible to die yet. All I had was my camera and hope.”

“I saw a lot of smoke so I left my backpack on the track to go and have a closer look,” he said.

“It was very smoky and then I see the fire in front of me moving very fast with the wind.

“I was very scared and started to run to get away from it. All the forest looked the same and I couldn’t find the track again.

“My water and food was all in my backpack.

“I couldn’t find the track and had to sleep in the forest,” he said.

“It was freezing and I couldn’t sleep for a long time … I kept dreaming about water so then I went in search of water but couldn’t find any.”

He believed he would die, lost in the outback from dehydration.

Mr Johan found the track yesterday morning and traced his steps back to his backpack, which had been torched by the bushfire.

“Everything was all burnt,” he said. “All I got was an aluminium bottle, which I filled with water from a bore I found.”

About 10.30am yesterday, a police officer and a ranger aboard a helicopter saw the frantic man.

“I was waving and yelling and very glad to see them,” he said.

He had only been in the Territory a few days but plans to continue with his trip.


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