9 Nov 2019

NSW firefighters continue to battle 'unprecedented' high-threat fires

1:21 pm on 9 November 2019

Two people are confirmed dead and seven more are missing in New South Wales, as an unprecedented fire emergency grips New South Wales.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed the numbers as the state's bushfire emergency extended into its second day.

"There are at least seven people unaccounted for and I'm sorry to say that number can increase during the day. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the two deceased persons," she said.

Five fires are still burning at emergency warning level in NSW. At the height of the chaos yesterday, 17 blazes were given that status, the highest number on record.

At least 30 people have been injured and many people are trapped in their homes, with fire crews unable to reach them due to the strength of the fires.

The state's Rural Fire Service said the drought was having a profound effect, and it was dealing with a total of more than 80 blazes raging across the state.

Firefighters said they found one body near Kangawalla, about 10km east of Glen Innes, where one of the most intense blazes took hold in the state's north.

Glen Innes Mayor Carol Sparks described the situation as "horrific".

"The school was lost, [houses] were burnt, people were burnt, lives were lost," she said.

"People battled to save their houses and then had to walk out because their cars had blown up, it was just horrific."

Further north on Queensland's Gold Coast, people in lower Beechmont have been warned to flee.

Flames from an out of control bushfire seen from a nearby residential area in Harrington, some 335km northeast of Sydney.


And on the Sunshine Coast, 2500 people have been evacuated from Cooroibah after a fire flared there yesterday afternoon.

New South Wales fire crews have fought hundreds of bushfires since September. Last month, two people died while trying to protect their home.

NSW Rural Fire Service captain Paul Johnson said the blaze raging overnight in Nymboida, south of Grafton in the NSW's north, was a devastating firestorm.

He said very high fire danger would continue in many places today, with the mid-north coast region expected to remain a hot spot.

Volunteer firefighters across New South Wales have spent the night battling an unprecedented rash of wildfires.

They managed to bring down the number burning at the highest threat status down to six from a record 17 yesterday, but some 50 fires remained uncontained.

A total 81 fires were still burning overnight as firefighters prepared for a wind change that would alter the course of the blazes.

At least two homes were destroyed in the Coraki area on the state's far north coast.

Flames from an out of control bushfire seen from a nearby residential area in Harrington, some 335 kilometers northeast of Sydney.


Some people were reportedly trapped inside their homes in several places, because of the ferocity of the blazes, and several firefighters have been injured.

In some areas authorities have warned residents it is too dangerous and too late to leave on the roads, and they have been advised to take shelter on their properties.

Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the situation was volatile.

"Lots of impact on property and damage and destruction of property," he said.

Mr Fitzsimmons said the dry conditions were fuelling the fire.

"Because the drought is just so profound there is no moisture left in the vegetation, so you've got a high energy output, the fire burning and moving through vegetation very quickly."

About 1200 firefighters and 70 aircraft had been deployed "to save as many people as possible", he said.

David Chinn, a New Zealander living in Port Macquarie on the state's Mid North Coast, described an apocalpytic scene in the city which is surrounded by wildfires.

He told RNZ the volunteer firefighters working on the edges of the towns and cities were doing a great job to keep them safe, but that you could not help but feel scared by the strange atmosphere.

"The sky turned a dark orange colour with ash falling like snow really. Cars all had headlights on. It was like an apocalypse or something, I'd never seen anything like it before."

The fires around Port Macquarie have given the entire region an eerie orange tinge, with one resident describing the scene as "apocalyptic".

The fires around Port Macquarie have given the entire region an eerie orange tinge, with one resident describing the scene as "apocalyptic". Photo: Facebook / Live Traffic NSW

"It's falling everywhere and just looking at our back deck it's covered in ash and burnt leaves that have travelled here from fires a few kilometres away."

Mr Chinn said the highways around the city were all closed, and the rural areas were at great risk.

The smoke plumes from the wildfires are now visible from New Zealand.

MetService meteorologist Peter Little said a northwest flow across the Tasman Sea is carrying the smoke across.

"People have commented from the ground that they've seen a hazy, slightly tinted sky and we can see on satellite imagery that there's quite a brown-grey hue in the colour of the sky across the Tasman and that's caused by the smoke."

Mr Little said people in Gisborne and Hawke's Bay are most likely to see effects of the fire.


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