Two dead and several missing as wildfires hit drought-stricken Australia
At least two people have died and five are missing after more than 100 bushfires rage across eastern Australia.
Thirty people have been injured and 150 homes destroyed as wildfires continue to raze the drought-stricken area.
Firefighters in New South Wales confirmed two people had been killed by a fire near Glen Innes, more than 340 miles north of Sydney.
Five other people remain unaccounted for on Saturday afternoon, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying he feared the number of deaths could rise.
He said: ‘These fires have already claimed two lives and as we get access to further areas that have been cut off we are expecting worse news again.’
Dozens of people have been treated for burns while one patient had a cardiac arrest, the fire service said.
The annual Australian fire season, which peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer, has started early after an unusually warm and dry winter.
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said he expected there to be little reprieve throughout the months of December, January and February.
On Saturday, around 1,500 firefighters were still battling more than 80 fires across Australia’s most populous state.
The armed forces are also set to be drafted in as high winds and dry conditions fan the flames.
Of the fires, 36 are uncontained and there are emergency warnings on four of them.
Hundreds of people have evacuated their homes along a 310-mile swathe of the eastern seaboard from the Queensland state border as far south as Forster.
In the New South Wales town of Taree more than 300 people evacuated to a social club.
Resident Morgan Stewart said: ‘It was pretty scary. We’re hearing lots of stories of lost houses, lost property, goods and effects, animals, land. It’s going to be horrific, I think.’
Peter Lean spent the night on the roof of his house in the town of Wallabi Point, extinguishing burning embers carried on strong winds.
He said: ‘I’ve never seen the sky so red since 2000.
‘We’ve got winds blowing, they’re circling, it’s like a cyclone.’
In Queensland, some 6,000 residents were evacuated from three communities as nearly 50 wildfires raged in the state.
At least one house was lost and a firefighter suffered a broken leg.
Mr Morrison added: ‘The devastating and horrific fires that we have seen particularly in New South Wales but also in Queensland have been absolutely chilling.’
Officials in Western Australia have also warned of a high fire risk throughout the state.
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