SYDNEY - At least three people have died in bushfires in Australia. Authorities in New South Wales say more than 150 homes have been destroyed as the state battled an unprecedented fire emergency that continues into a third day, Sunday. Officials are warning the number of people killed could rise as fire-hit areas are inspected. At least 30 people have been injured.
The bushfire crisis spans two states in eastern Australia. Monstrous walls of flame have terrorized towns and villages. Many fires in northern New South Wales and parts of Queensland continue to burn out of control despite a military-style fire-fighting effort.
Water-bombing aircraft have doused them from above, while hundreds of firefighters, many of them volunteers, have gone into battle on the ground.
The full impact on life and property could take days to emerge.
Bridges, schools and power lines, as well as many homes, have been destroyed.
Others are counting their luck.
“I have come back and my house, its still there. It is rammed earth and it is still there. I can’t believe it. My sheds are all gone and my house is still there,” said a woman.
“I am still gathering thoughts, trying to remember that what it was that I actually did see, whether or not I could believe what I saw,” said a man.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the nation won’t forget those affected by the fires.
“Those who have been so directly and horribly impacted by these fires, those who have lost loved ones and those who will learn they have lost loved ones in the not-too-distant future, those who have lost homes, those who are sitting in the smoldered ruins of properties that once stood, they are the ones that Australians will be thinking of today,” he said.
Hot and windy weather, combined with a long drought, have made parts of eastern Australia a tinderbox.
Cooler conditions Sunday helped firefighters, but the danger in eastern Australia is far from over. Authorities say they are likely to issue extreme fire warnings for a vast section of the New South Wales coast on Tuesday, as well as for inland regions.
Areas around Sydney are considered to be particularly at risk. Queensland is also bracing for more hazardous conditions. Residents have been warned that if they are threatened by fire, they may not get help.