Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
Five missing, two dead as nation burns

Five people are missing, two more are dead and thousands are cut off in remote communities as out-of-control bushfires savage NSW and Victoria.

January 1, 2020

Fire crews battling hundreds of blazes are facing another tough day across Australia as burnt out communities begin counting their losses.

Five people are missing, two more are dead and thousands are cut off in remote communities as out-of-control bushfires savage NSW and Victoria.

NSW Fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says it’s “one of the worst, if not the worst fire seasons” his state has faced.

“We are absolutely stretched … we have fires burning from the Queensland border all the way down to the Victorian border across the Great Dividing Range,” he said.

His dire warning comes as an overnight southerly wind change brings “tricky” conditions to the north of the state on Wednesday.

“It will be cooler but they’re strong and gusty south to southwesterly winds that will lead to a change in the direction the fires are moving,” meteorologist Dean Narramore told AAP.

“It’ll expand the fire area, so you’re going to have new challenges, new problems and new areas impacted.

“They’re going to cause tricky fire conditions, particularly for those really large fires around Sydney.” 

Mr Narramore said some blazes are so large, firefighters are likely to be battling different weather conditions in the eastern and western perimeters of the fires.

“It’s just unbelievable,” he said.

Multiple fires continue to burn on NSW’s southern coast, where two men died trying to defend their home on Tuesday and another man remains unaccounted for.

However, the southerly wind change is expected to reduce the fire risk, despite packing gusts of up to 80 km/h.

In Victoria, where four people are missing and dozens of homes are expected to have been lost, the Defence Force has been mobilised to evacuate people cut off in remote communities in East Gippsland.

Fires ripped through more than 230,000 hectares in the east of the state forcing thousands of residents to shelter on beaches as smoke turned day into night.

Black Hawk helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and naval vessels have been deployed, along with military personnel, as more than 30 bushfires of significance continue to burn.

Warning levels for dozens of bushfires burning in South Australian have been reduced but concerns remain for six blazes, including those burning on Kangaroo Island and near Whyalla.

In southern Western Australia, a large bushfire continues to rage in the Stirling Range National Park, as more than 40 bushfires burn statewide with the loss of more than a million hectares.

One home has been destroyed in Tasmania, where more than 30 bushfires continue to burn, six of concern.

In Queensland, 27 fires continue to burn but none are threatening property.

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