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Scores of bushfires burn out of control in NSW and Queensland as temperatures soar NSW and Queensland bushfires: at least 100 homes destroyed, three people missing
(about 11 hours later)
Hot and windy weather has created volatile conditions along parts of Australia’s east coast Rural Fire Service says three people are unaccounted for, as fuller picture emerges of the devastation caused by Friday’s fires
Parts of Australia faced an unprecedented bushfire threat on Friday evening as more than 100 blazes burned across coastal New South Wales and Queensland. At least 100 homes have been destroyed in the bushfires that swept through NSW on Friday, and three people are unaccounted for, the Rural Fire Service said on Saturday morning.
Communities on NSW’s mid-north coast and the far north coast were battling the worst of the conditions, which were described by authorities as “uncharted territory” and that led to a dramatic, orange-red glow descending on the fire-threatened city of Port Macquarie. More than 30 people were injured and 77 fires were still burning throughout the state, with 42 uncontainedl
Across drought-stricken NSW, a record 17 “emergency warnings” were in place for more than 90 blazes that stretched from the Blue Mountains to the border with Queensland, where about 50 fires had also burned throughout Friday. Conditions eased somewhat overnight, with the number of fires at emergency warning level down from 17 to nine, but a fuller picture of the devastation had yet to emerge.
The RFS said the threat had not passed and a forecast wind change would bring with it strong winds.
“We are still seeing erratic and dangerous fire behaviour across the remainder of fire grounds, which continues to pose a threat to homes,” the RFS said.
NSW acting police commissioner Dean Smith confirmed there were people unaccounted for at Rappville, near Casino in northern NSW, but said the widespread nature of the fire and difficulty of access on rural roads had made it hard for authorities to confidently account for everyone.
“At this point in time, we’re unable to fully confirm those numbers,” Smith told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.
“We do have a number of people who are unaccounted for. But we do not know what that actually looks like at this time.
“We are certainly working closely with our resources to make sure that everyone is accounted for.”
The Rural Fire Service said in a tweet late on Friday that many people had called for help, but the size and speed of the fires meant they could not get to everyone.
Aerial footage showed “widespread” property damage and destruction as more than 80 fires burned at midnight on Friday night.
Emergency warnings have been issued from the Blue Mountains to the Queensland border.
Mid-coast mayor David West, who lives in Brimbin, said that he had never seen anything like the fire in his area.
“I’m looking at a sky that’s screaming danger, that’s saying ‘get out of my way, I’m going to kill you’,” he told AAP on Friday night.
“I know that sounds melodramatic but it’s not. This is a fire that’s devouring everything in its path.”
It’s thought two homes were damaged or destroyed in the fire burning at Stockyard Flat near Walcha.
On Friday more than 100 blazes burned across coastal New South Wales and Queensland.
Communities on NSW’s mid-north coast and the far north coast faced the worst of the conditions, which were described by authorities as “uncharted territory” and which led to a dramatic, orange-red glow descending on the fire-threatened city of Port Macquarie.
“We have never seen this many fires concurrently at emergency warning level,” the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, told the ABC. “We are in uncharted territory.”“We have never seen this many fires concurrently at emergency warning level,” the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, told the ABC. “We are in uncharted territory.”
At 4pm, the NSW RFS said: “A number of fires in the north coast and northern NSW areas are becoming more intense and more dangerous. Some are creating their own weather conditions.” On Friday afternoon the RFS said some of the fires were so intense they were creating their own weather conditions.
By Friday evening, authorities confirmed the destruction of at least two homes on NSW’s far north coast region but that number was expected to rise as residents returned to inspect their properties. Minor injuries were reported to fire fighters and residents, Fitzsimmons said. By Friday evening, authorities confirmed the destruction of at least two homes on NSW’s far north coast region but that number was expected to rise significantly as residents returned to inspect their properties. Minor injuries were reported to fire fighters and residents, Fitzsimmons said.
The ABC reported that fire crews were responding to calls from residents trapped in their homes. A spokesman told the Guardian it was too late for residents to leave in some locations, and that authorities could no longer guarantee crews could reach all homes.The ABC reported that fire crews were responding to calls from residents trapped in their homes. A spokesman told the Guardian it was too late for residents to leave in some locations, and that authorities could no longer guarantee crews could reach all homes.
Fitzsimmons said aerial footage showed “widespread property damage and destruction, right across multiple fire grounds”.Fitzsimmons said aerial footage showed “widespread property damage and destruction, right across multiple fire grounds”.
In Port Macquarie, a city of 45,000 people on the NSW mid north coast, a red haze that engulfed the area was described as “apocalyptic”. As fire fighters battled hot and windy conditions, locals in some pockets of the town were evacuated, while sections of the Pacific Highway and some schools were closed.In Port Macquarie, a city of 45,000 people on the NSW mid north coast, a red haze that engulfed the area was described as “apocalyptic”. As fire fighters battled hot and windy conditions, locals in some pockets of the town were evacuated, while sections of the Pacific Highway and some schools were closed.
Residents in Tenterfield, Armidale, Clarence Valley, Port Macquarie, Nambucca, Kempsey and other mid-coast areas were warned that their lives were at risk and urged to take action to protect themselves.Residents in Tenterfield, Armidale, Clarence Valley, Port Macquarie, Nambucca, Kempsey and other mid-coast areas were warned that their lives were at risk and urged to take action to protect themselves.
“From my personal perspective, it’s horrifying,” said the MidCoast council mayor, David West, of the threat to Taree, about 80km south of Port Macquarie.“From my personal perspective, it’s horrifying,” said the MidCoast council mayor, David West, of the threat to Taree, about 80km south of Port Macquarie.
Describing the conditions as “unprecedented”, West added: “I’ve never felt a sense of anguish that I do now, the fear for my community.”Describing the conditions as “unprecedented”, West added: “I’ve never felt a sense of anguish that I do now, the fear for my community.”
In Queensland, two emergency warnings were declared and fires threatened small communities in Scenic Rim, about 80km west of Brisbane, and at Tewantin and Cooroibah on the Sunshine Coast.In Queensland, two emergency warnings were declared and fires threatened small communities in Scenic Rim, about 80km west of Brisbane, and at Tewantin and Cooroibah on the Sunshine Coast.
Authorities said they would evacuate hundreds of residents in parts of Tewantin, a suburb of the popular holiday spot Noosa, and said they would look to clear the entire town if the threat escalated.Authorities said they would evacuate hundreds of residents in parts of Tewantin, a suburb of the popular holiday spot Noosa, and said they would look to clear the entire town if the threat escalated.
Earlier on Friday, Fitzsimmons said bush and grass fires were burning through about 370,000 hectares of land in New South Wales. That was more than the entire land area burned last year.Earlier on Friday, Fitzsimmons said bush and grass fires were burning through about 370,000 hectares of land in New South Wales. That was more than the entire land area burned last year.
The Bureau of Meteorology said a cool change should blow through fire-affected areas in New South Wales, which they hoped would improve fire-fighting conditions.The Bureau of Meteorology said a cool change should blow through fire-affected areas in New South Wales, which they hoped would improve fire-fighting conditions.
“This change is likely to be quite vigorous,” said Dean Sgarbossa of the Bureau of Meteorology. “This is particularly dangerous for fires, it can change the direction and elongate them and shift them.”“This change is likely to be quite vigorous,” said Dean Sgarbossa of the Bureau of Meteorology. “This is particularly dangerous for fires, it can change the direction and elongate them and shift them.”
The fire danger should lessen over the weekend, although threat levels were forecast to rise again on Tuesday or Wednesday next week, Fitzsimmons said.The fire danger should lessen over the weekend, although threat levels were forecast to rise again on Tuesday or Wednesday next week, Fitzsimmons said.
Western Australians were also warned that significant bushfires were likely at the weekend as forecasters predicted the mercury would hit 40C on Saturday.Western Australians were also warned that significant bushfires were likely at the weekend as forecasters predicted the mercury would hit 40C on Saturday.
On Friday, WA’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services downgraded a bushfire that ravaged through 400 hectares of land north of Perth that morning.On Friday, WA’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services downgraded a bushfire that ravaged through 400 hectares of land north of Perth that morning.
But they warned the out-of-control fire still posed a possible threat to lives and homes.But they warned the out-of-control fire still posed a possible threat to lives and homes.