A firefighter watches the progress of bushfires in Old Bar, New South Wales, Australia, on Saturday. Photo: AAP Image/Shane Chalker/via REUTERS

3 dead, 4 missing, at least 150 homes destroyed in Australian bushfires

By Will Ziebell

Three people have died, four are missing and at least 150 homes have been destroyed as bushfires rage across eastern Australia, authorities said on Saturday.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) confirmed two people had been killed by a fire near Glen Innes, more than 550 km north of Sydney.

One body was discovered in a vehicle and a woman died after being found suffering from burns on Friday.

NSW police said a body was found in a burnt-out home north of Taree, a town about 300 km north of Sydney. Police said the home belonged to a 63-year old woman, but a post-mortem was needed to confirm the identity of the victim and cause of death.

At least four other people remain unaccounted for on Saturday evening, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying on Saturday afternoon, before the third death was confirmed, he feared the number of deaths could rise.

"These fires have already claimed two lives ... and as we get access to further areas that have been cut off we are expecting worse news again," Morrison said during a televised news conference in Sydney.

Morrison said reserve members of Australia's armed forces may be used to assist emergency services and that support payments were being made available for those directly affected by fires.

This is one of Australia's worst bushfire seasons and it is occurring even before the start of the Southern Hemisphere summer, with parts of the country already crippled by severe drought.

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said little reprieve in fire conditions could be expected over the next week or throughout the summer months of December, January and February.

"The forecast for the balance of the season continues to be driven by above-normal temperatures (and) below-average rainfall to dominate over the coming months," Fitzsimmons said.

On Friday, state fire authorities issued a record number of emergency warnings, with 17 fires declared to be at an emergency level with high winds and dry-conditions fanning the flames.

There were 81 fires burning across the state on Saturday afternoon, 36 of them uncontained, with an emergency warning on four of them.

Further north, in Queensland, thousands of residents near the resort town of Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast, spent the night in evacuation centres.

Queensland Premier Anastasia Paluszek said authorities were still assessing if it was safe for nearly 2,000 people to return home.

"These fires can change very quickly, it is very dry at the moment and the winds will pick up this afternoon," Paluszek told reporters.

Meanwhile in Western Australia, one fire was declared at an emergency level on Saturday afternoon and authorities warned of high fire risk throughout the state, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services said.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Peoples who deliberately lit fire are heartless peoples. Many families have lost homes and some peoples have lost lives. Also Koala, Possum, Kangaroo and other native animals have lost their habitat. What they have gained from that kind of stupid action?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Australia's a big country. At the exact moment I first clicked on this news story yesterday it was 11 degrees centigrade, middle of the afternoon. The heavens down here in Melbourne opened and rain and hail started clattering down on the roof, while I'm looking at pictures of regional towns bathed in a weird orange glow from these horrendous bushfires caused or at least exacerbated by the ongoing drought in those parts of the country.

It's a 90% certainty that at some time in the coming summer it will be our turn down here in the south to have fires, we can only hope that neither those fires or these ones currently in New South Wales cause any more loss of life. Like many people in Australia, I have personal friends who have either suffered the destruction of their houses or who could suffer such a loss on the wrong day. Fingers crossed. And a big shoutout to the brave men and women who fight these fires, most of them volunteers.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This is one of Australia's worst bushfire seasons and it is occurring even before the start of the southern hemisphere summer

Seems daily, there are headlines somewhere about record breaking temperatures, rains, drought, and wildfires.

This week one of the strongest storms ever recorded was in the pacific (the 5th super typhoon this year) ... only went largely unnoticed because it wasn't heading towards land.

But all the events together show a VERY strong trend that 'leaders' have a moral duty to stop ignoring.


0 ( +3 / -3 )

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