New South Wales fires: Three dead, seven missing, 150 homes destroyed

Nov. 9 (UPI) — Dozens of “unprecedented” bushfires in Australia’s southeastern state of New South Wales killed three people and left at least seven missing, local fire officials said Saturday.

More than 1,000 firefighters worked to contain the fires mainly along the north coast and northern NSW for the second day. The blazes destroyed at least 150 homes.

With “dry windy conditions across an already very dry landscape, there is every likelihood that we’ll see fires increase in their alert level,” New South Wales Rural Fire Services commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said at a news conference Saturday.

On Friday, Rob Rogers, executive director of operations at the service, described the fires as “unprecedented” in a tweet and asked residents to “avoid fire affected areas.”

As of 12:30 a.m. Sunday, there were 74 bush fires across NSW, with 43 not under control. Officials issued an emergency warning for one fire, and watch and act alerts for 15 other blazes.

“Crews are using favorable conditions on a number of firegrounds to undertake important backburning,” New South Wales Rural Fire Services posted on Twitter.

“If you are near these fires, your life is at risk and you need to take action to protect your life,” the NSW RFS said in a Twitter post.

Areas most affected were Tenterfield, Armidale, Clarence Valley, Port Macquarie, Nambucca and Kempsey, according to CNN affiliate Nine News.

In addition, 50 bushfires were blazing in the neighboring state of Queensland.

The Australian Defense Force will provide support to firefighters where required, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, and financial assistance would be made available to people affected by the fires.

The Insurance Council of Australia declared the NSW north coast brush fires a catastrophe. Those affected will be prioritized by insurers.

In the Glen Innes area, about 60 structures had been destroyed.

The town’s mayor, Carol Sparks, described the situation as “horrific.”

“The school was lost, [houses] were burnt, people were burnt, lives were lost,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

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

The Liberation Trail fire has burnt through more than 121,000 acres in Nymboida.

Peter Simpson told ABC his house was saved but “every second house is gone … The village is gone. And surrounding houses, that I guarantee, most of Nymboida will be displaced because they’re going to have nowhere to live.”

“I’m really sorry for every person in the area that’s lost out … My heart bleeds for them. There’s nothing that the firies could have done,” he added, using a nickname for firefighters.

One person was found dead inside a vehicle, another died in a hospital after being treated for severe burns and the third was found dead in a burned-out home.