At least two people were killed and seven others reported missing after devastating bushfires broke out in Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) state, according to authorities on Saturday.
“Our thoughts and prayers of course go to the families and loved ones of those two deceased persons,” Xinhua news agency quoted State Premier Gladys Berejiklian as saying to the media.
The body of the first victim was found in a vehicle near the town of Glen Innes on the state’s far North Coast. Berejiklian also warned the death toll could rise.
NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Greg Allan said that there were 81 bush and grass fires across the state. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services was also warning residents of the Sunshine Coast that a “large fast-moving” bushfire that may threaten lives is approaching homes in Cooroibah and Ringtail Creek.
The fires, which flared up along the country’s east coast on Friday afternoon, also destroyed more than 100 homes.
Three fires were still burning at an emergency level in the early hours of the day, and at the height of the disaster, a record 17 fires were given that classification.
The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, said that defence personnel were ready to help firefighters battle the bushfires.
Berejiklian said that with a number of fires still burning uncontrolled across the state, the worst may be yet to come.
“We do need to brace ourselves and what is concerning is that the forecast weather conditions on Tuesday (November 12) could mean that we’re not through the worst of it,” she added.
In Queensland, evacuation notices were issued overnight for Lower Beechmont in the Gold Coast hinterland, Noosa North and Thornton, west of Brisbane.
The fire season in Australia varies by area and weather conditions, although it usually occurs during the southern summer (between the months of December and March).
The worst fires in the Oceanic country in recent decades occurred in early February 2009 in the state of Victoria (southeast), causing 173 deaths and leaving 414 injured while burning an area of 4,500 sq.km.
(With inputs from IANS)