TWO bus drivers who were stranded in Taree during the height of the bushfire crisis last week are concerned at what they described as the lack of co-ordination at the evacuation centre at Club Taree.
Matt Davy and Dennis Parker were both driving Eggins buses that were turned back at the Old Bar turnoff when the Old Bar Road was closed.
"I had 10 to 15 people in my bus,'' Matt said.
"We were turned around about 2.20pm and I went straight back to the Eggins terminal.
He said they waited there until 6pm.
"We looked after the passengers in our lunch room, which is air conditioned and has a TV,'' Matt explained.
He said word then came through to take those unable to get home to Club Taree, the evacuation centre.
Matt and Dennis claim there was a lack of organisation at the centre - but don't blame Club Taree's staff or management.
"I understand all this happened pretty quickly,'' Matt said.
"But it didn't seem like anyone was in charge.''
"We had half of Old Bar there,'' Dennis added.
"We couldn't get any information.''
"I had older people on the bus and others with young kids,'' Matt said.
"Most of them had been shopping earlier in the day and some didn't have much money left.
"But by 8.30pm some still hadn't had anything to eat and nothing was getting done to get them something. People were getting pretty upset, especially since some didn't know what was going on with their homes or how long they were going to be stuck in Taree.''
Matt said he rang the local SES headquarters about 7pm to see if anything was being done to organise some food.
"A lady there answered, said she didn't know but would get back to me in five minutes. I still haven't heard from her,'' he said.
Around 10pm the drivers were given the all clear by police to return to Old Bar. Matt and Dennis estimate there would have been more than 100 people stranded.
Both the drivers know all organisations were busy with the fires and that it was a chaotic circumstance. But they said the lack of organisation exacerbated a difficult situation.
An Old Bar resident who works in Taree said she was told it had been broadcast on Max FM that there would be a free meal at Club Taree for those unable to get home.
However, after arriving at the club she was told by staff that they knew nothing about it.
"I was lucky - I had money so I paid for a meal," she said.
However, Anthony Zanos from Max FM said there was no mention of a free meal in the information broadcast by the station.