Three missing as devastating bushfires turn Australian skies orange

8 November 2019, 22:11

The smoke and the fires turned the sky orange
The smoke and the fires turned the sky orange. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A record number of "unprecedented" emergency-level bushfires have ravaged the state of New South Wales, say Australian authorities.

Three people are unaccounted for and at least 100 homes have been destroyed in bushfires that swept across eastern Australia on Friday.

The Rural Fire Service said more than 30 people had been injured in the blazes, whilst nearly 80 fires continue to burn.

More than half of those remained uncontained as Australians awoke on Saturday, despite conditions easing overnight.

Strong winds and temperatures up to 35C in drought areas have seen the flames intensify and emergency warnings have been issued from the Blue Mountain's to the Queensland border.

People have been trapped in their homes with fire crews struggling to reach them due to the strength of the flames. Authorities deployed more than 1,000 firefighters and 70 aircraft to save "as many people as possible."

Shane Fitzsimmons, the Rural Fire Service Commissioner, said: "We are in uncharted territory. We have never seen this many fires concurrently at emergency warning level."

Mid-coast mayor David West, from Brimbin, told reporters he had never seen anything it in his area.

"I’m looking at a sky that’s screaming danger, that’s saying ‘get out of my way, I’m going to kill you.' I know that sounds melodramatic but it’s not. This is a fire that’s devouring everything in its path," he said.

Aircraft were deployed in an attempt to quell the flames
Aircraft were deployed in an attempt to quell the flames. Picture: PA

At the height of the devastation, 17 emergency-level fires were burning simultaneously across NSW with several others causing problems in neighbouring Queensland where evacuation notices were issued overnight.

Efforts to tackle the flames have been made easier as temperatures have fallen and humidity has risen, however the RFS said a threat is still in place and a forecast wind change could see strong winds add to the problem.

"We are still seeing erratic and dangerous fire behaviour across the remainder of fire grounds, which continues to pose a threat to homes," an RFS statement said.

In Port Macquarie, a city of 45,000 people on the NSW mid north coast, a red haze that engulfed the area was described as “apocalyptic”.

NSW acting police commissioner Dean Smith confirmed people were missing in Rappville, NSW, but could not say exactly how many.

"At this point in time, we’re unable to fully confirm those numbers. We do have a number of people who are unaccounted for. But we do not know what that actually looks like at this time," he said.

"We are certainly working closely with our resources to make sure that everyone is accounted for."

With the fires spread out across the state and rural roads difficult to access, authorities have faced an uphill struggle in tackling the blazes and ensuring people are safe or accounted for.

Bushfires have ravaged New South Wales, with more in Queensland and Western Australia
Bushfires have ravaged New South Wales, with more in Queensland and Western Australia. Picture: PA

An RFS post on Twitter said that many people had called the emergency services for help, but the ferocity of the flames had prevented authorities from reaching everyone.

It said: "Today has been a difficult and dangerous day. Unfortunately, many people have called for help but due to the size and speed of the fires we couldn't get to everyone, even by road or helicopter. If you've been affected or know someone who has, use"

Some people were told to find shelter from the infernos instead of fleeing as it was now too late to leave.

Last month, two people from NSW died while trying to protect their home as crews have fought hundreds of fires since September.

A blaze last week destroyed 2,000 hectares of bush, which contained a koala sanctuary, with hundreds of animals feared to have died.

Western Australia also received warnings as bushfires are expected to hit the state across the weekend. Weather forecasters have predicted temperatures as high as 40C on Saturday.

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Firefighters tackling a blaze near Saint-Magne, south of Bordeaux, southwestern France

Firefighters battle major wildfire in France

Mohammad Arada looks at the rubble of his family house after it was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike, in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip

Death toll from weekend Israel-Gaza fighting rises to 47

Krisztina plays with her children on their balcony in Budapest, Hungary

In Pictures: How people in Budapest are keeping cool amidst heatwave

Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant’s widow, leaves a federal courthouse in Los Angeles on Wednesday August 10 2022

Photographs of basketball star Kobe Bryant’s body were ‘shared for a laugh’

Courtney Clenney has been arrested on suspicion of murder

Social media model Courtney Clenney arrested in Hawaii on suspicion of murder

Virus Outbreak North Korea

Kim Jong Un ‘suffered fever’ during North Korea’s Covid wave, says his sister

Russia Ukraine War

Satellite images show Crimea airbase damaged after apparent Ukrainian attack

The Spanish government has limited air conditioning and heating

Spain cracks down on air conditioning and heating in bid to save energy

Former US national security adviser John Bolton

Iranian operative charged in plot to murder Trump security adviser John Bolton

A resident sits on the sea wall as smoke rises in the background from a deadly fire at a large oil storage facility in Matanzas, Cuba

Firefighters subdue deadly blaze at key oil facility in Cuba

Rising smoke can be seen from the beach at Saky after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, Crimea

Ukraine says nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in Crimea blasts

The river Rhine is pictured with low water in Cologne, Germany

Fears mount that water levels in Rhine river could fall below critical mark

Former US president Donald Trump gestures as he departs Trump Tower on Wednesday August 10 2022 in New York

Donald Trump says he took the fifth amendment in New York investigation

Former US president Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower, late on Tuesday August 9 2022, in New York

Donald Trump arrives to give evidence in New York investigation

Taiwan’s military conducts artillery live-fire drills at Fangshan township in Pingtung, southern Taiwan, Tuesday, August 9, 2022

China appears to wind down threatening war games near Taiwan

People line up to enter an H&M shop and buy items on sale in the Aviapark shopping centre in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday August 9 2022

Russians buy last goods from H&M and Ikea as stores wind down