Wildfires in eastern Australia pose an 'unprecedented' threat


A sombre Scott Morrison said today defence personnel stand ready to assist firefighters, warning: "Sadly, we have lost two Australians and I fear that we will lose more before the day is out".

A firefighter works as a bushfire, believed to have been sparked by a lightning strike that has ravaged an area of over 2,000 hectares in northern New South Wales state, burns in Port Macquarie on November 2, 2019. "I'm sorry to say that number can increase during the day", Berejiklian said.

The seven people who are unaccounted for are also missing in and around the Glen Innes fire.

It previously said that many people have called for help but the size and speed of the fires means they can't get to everyone.

There are reports of people trapped in their homes in several places, with crew unable to reach them due to the strength of the fires.

Fires swept through the area on Saturday afternoon.

Following an order from local fire authorities, thousands of residents fled their homes and spent the night in evacuation centers.

A woman who had been discovered by firefighters in the same blaze but in an unrelated incident was treated for burns before being transferred to hospital but has since died, NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

"The forecast for the balance of the season continues to be driven by above-normal temperatures (and) below-average rainfall to dominate over the coming months", he told Reuters news agency.

The fact the blazes were spread along a roughly 1,000-kilometre stretch of the seaboard left emergency services struggling to cope, even with the help of around 70 aircraft.

State Pemier Gladys Berejiklian said the worst may be yet to come.

"I was the last one to speak to her".

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Rains lashed NSW earlier this week, providing much relief to farmers.

How many fires are blazing?

"We can't rule out the really grave concerns that there could be more losses or indeed more fatalities as we get through and identify details across these fire grounds", he told reporters in Sydney. In some cases authorities have drilled bores to keep up with demand.

"It was pretty scary", Mr Stewart said.

Towns, including Port Macquarie and Grafton, were bathed in an eerie red as the huge fires threatened homes.

The poor air quality prompted health warnings for those with asthma and other respiratory problems.

Morrison, whose government has played down the threat of climate change sought to deflect questions about what impact it may have had.

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).

Officials have confirmed that 2018 and 2017 were Australia's third and fourth-hottest years on record respectively.

This is what climate change looks like. Parts of the country are facing the worst drought in living memory.

Have you been affected by the bushfires?