There is still no end in sight for the communities ravaged by Australia’s unprecedented bushfires and the fire crews that are battling to keep the flames at bay.
While a new threat emerges in New South Wales, there is some hope for milder conditions in Victoria’s Gippsland fires.
Overnight to Sunday, affected towns in NSW and Victoria remained on high alert, while South Australia’s Kangaroo Island has had one-third of its land mass burnt.
In the Southern Highlands of NSW, it’s feared the property losses could run into the dozens after a Saturday filled with emergency warning alert levels.
The first of 3000 Australian Defence Force reservists, in a relief move announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday, will begin rolling out to affected regions to help assess the extent of the fire damage, and when residents can return to their communities.
Across the country, the first hours of daylight on Sunday will reveal the extent of damage overnight – conditions meant fires were whipped into frenzies too dangerous for firecrews, who were instructed to leave some areas and return the next day to assess the damage.
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Emergency warnings remain on Sunday morning for blazes in the Snowy Monaro and Bega Valley regions as well as in the Southern Highlands and at the 271,683-hectare Green Wattle Creek fire southwest of Sydney.
There are now fears for the state’s energy supply levels, with the public being urged to be cautious with their energy use.
Just so you all know one of our crews here at Fire & Rescue NSW 268 Station Corowa is currently at Talbingo.A very…
NSW’s energy grid copped a big blow when assets in the Kosciuszko National Park were damaged, TransGrid chief executive Paul Italiano confirmed.
If there are further losses, rolling blackouts might be forced out as a way to conserve what energy is left.
As of Saturday night, there were more than 32,000 people without power in the Batemans Bay and Moruya regions.
In Victoria, Saturday night brought more evacuation orders to a state where thousands of people have already been displaced.
A fire raging in the state’s northeast meant evacuation orders were issued overnight to Sunday for people in Dandongadale, Freeburgh and Wandiligong.
The death toll for the state remains at two, from Gippsland, while six people are missing.
Conditions on Sunday won’t bring relief as such, but they are expected to – for once – be on the firefighters’ side.
The mercury is forecast to peak in the early 20s in East Gippsland, with rainfall of about 20ml expected later in the day.
In the northeast, temperatures could hit the late 20s in some parts, with some rainfall – albeit it likely less than 5ml – expected.
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“That will help subdue the fire activity,” Bureau of meteorology senior meteorologist Dean Stewart told AAP.
Despite the shift, Premier Daniel Andrews has urged people to heed warnings and not be complacent.
“Lives can be lost if people don’t follow the instructions they’re given,” he told reporters.
The towns of Omeo and Swifts Creek in East Gippsland as well as Corryong near the NSW border are among those to have been under threat.
About 50 people were evacuated from Omeo by Chinook helicopters on Saturday but about 300 chose to stay in the township, Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville confirmed.
The evacuees were flown to Bairnsdale on the western side of the fires, before being transported to Sale.
In Gippsland, firefighters have been working to save critical infrastructure and the Country Fire Authority’s Andy Gillham said they were “in for the long haul”.
“This is a marathon event and we expect to be busy managing these fires for at least the next eight weeks.”
Navy vessels are expected to return to Mallacoota to evacuate more people.
South Australia’s Kangaroo Island barely has time to pause and mourn the loss of two men – well-known outback pilot Dick Lang, 78, and his son, Adelaide surgeon Clayton Lang, 43,who were caught by the flames in their car as they were returning to their family property after battling the fire for two days.
The hundreds of people gathered at the Kingscote community meeting have stood for a minute silence to mark the two tragic deaths during the #KangarooIslandFires @abcadelaide pic.twitter.com/ngoS4V9mnu
— Claire Campbell (@clairehcampbell) January 4, 2020
An advice message remains in place for the island’s blaze, which is expected to have caused significant home and property losses.
It’s also heavily damaged large parts of the Flinders Chase National Park, and service infrastructure.
The Country Fire Service says conditions across the fire ground have eased but crews will continue working for some time.