Two dead as wild­fires in Aus­tralia pose un­prece­dented threat

The National - News - - NEWS | WORLD -

Wild­fires raz­ing Aus­tralia’s drought-stricken east coast had killed two peo­ple, in­jured about 30 and de­stroyed more than 150 homes since Fri­day, of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day.

About 1,500 fire­fight­ers were bat­tling more than 70 fires across Aus­tralia’s most pop­u­lous state, New South Wales, with the most in­tense in the north-east where flames were fanned by strong winds, Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice Com­mis­sioner Shane Fitzsim­mons said.

Fire­fight­ers yes­ter­day found a body in a burnt car near Glen Innes, he said.

A woman who was found on Fri­day, un­con­scious and with se­ri­ous burns, near Glen Innes died in hospi­tal, he said.

An­other seven peo­ple have been re­ported miss­ing.

“We are ex­pect­ing that num­ber [of miss­ing peo­ple] to climb today,” Mr Fitzsim­mons said.

“There are re­ally grave con­cerns that there could be more losses or in­deed more fa­tal­i­ties.”

More than 30 peo­ple in­clud­ing fire­fight­ers re­ceived treat­ment for burns and one pa­tient suf­fered a car­diac ar­rest, he said.

Dam­age as­sess­ment teams have yet to reach some dev­as­tated ar­eas, the Ru­ral Fire Ser

vice said. Res­i­dents could not yet re­turn be­cause of the dan­gers of fire, smoke and loose as­bestos in the rub­ble, it said.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple aban­doned their homes along a 500-kilo­me­tre strip of the eastern seaboard from the Queens­land state bor­der south to Forster, a town 300km north of Syd­ney.

Many spent the night in evac­u­a­tion cen­tres while some slept in cars.

In Queens­land, more than 30 wild­fires raged yes­ter­day.

At least one house was lost, a fire­fighter suf­fered a bro­ken leg and 6,000 res­i­dents were moved from three com­mu­ni­ties in the state’s south-east, Po­lice In­spec­tor Rob Gra­ham said.

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son warned Aus­tralia to ex­pect more bad news from the fire zones.

In the New South Wales town of Taree, more than 300 peo­ple sought shel­ter overnight in a so­cial club.

“It was pretty scary,” said Mor­gan Ste­wart, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Club Taree. “We’re hear­ing lots of sto­ries of lost houses, lost prop­erty, goods and ef­fects, an­i­mals, land. It’s go­ing to be horrific.”

Peter Lean spent the night on the roof of his house in the town of Wal­labi Point, ex­tin­guish­ing burn­ing em­bers car­ried on strong winds.

“I’ve not seen the sky so red since 2000,” he said. “We’ve got winds blow­ing, they’re cir­cling, it’s like a cy­clone.”

The fire dan­ger reached un­prece­dented lev­els in New South Wales on Fri­day, when 17 fires were burn­ing at the most ex­treme dan­ger rat­ing, known as the Emer­gency Warn­ing Level.

“I can only re­call a fig­ure of less than 10 that we [pre­vi­ously] got to, which was an ex­tra­or­di­nary event in years past,” Mr Fitzsim­mons said.

“The fact that we have 17 at once yes­ter­day and an­other nine burn­ing at Watch and Act [level] is a mag­ni­tude that we sim­ply haven’t seen be­fore, com­mand­ing so much at­ten­tion, so much pri­or­ity, so much com­pe­ti­tion for re­sources and need to get to dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties,” he said.

Three fires were burn­ing at the high­est dan­ger rat­ing by yes­ter­day.

The an­nual Aus­tralian fire sea­son, which peaks dur­ing the south­ern hemi­sphere sum­mer, started early this year after an un­usu­ally warm and dry win­ter.


More than 30 wild­fires raged yes­ter­day in Queens­land while 17 fires in New South Wales were given the most ex­treme dan­ger rat­ing

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