Up to 30 homes have been destroyed or “seriously damaged” in bushfires burning in northern NSW.
NSW Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said teams would assess the damage to structures in the area around Rappville and Ewingar, south-west of Casino, on Wednesday morning.
“We’re just making sure we know what properties are damaged or lost, people are accounted for and making those areas as safe as we can so that people who haven’t lost their homes can return,” he said.
“There’s power lines still down, there’s a lot of trees falling down, so there’s a lot of work to do.”
Robert Mustow, the Mayor of Richmond Valley Council, which covers the Rappville area, said he was “broken” by the devastation.
“My heartfelt feelings go out to the whole community,” he said.
“There’s a big mill out there that’s burnt out. It’s a loss of employment not only for Rappville but for the Casino community, too.
“Yesterday the winds were ferocious and people said it was like Armageddon.”
On Tuesday, the RFS issued emergency warnings for four blazes burning within about 100 kilometres of each other in the state’s north.
While the immediate threat from those fires has eased, two of them joined overnight.
Those blazes at Drake and Busbys Flat have so far burnt more than 90,000 hectares of land.
“There’s an enormous amount of fire in that area,” Deputy Commissioner Rogers said.
“Certainly there were some people injured in Rappville and they were transported by ambulance yesterday. I understand there were some minor burns and people with breathing difficulties.”
The RFS is not aware of any fatalities, and some residents have told the ABC they hid in sheds as the fire swept through.
The village of Rappville, which has about 170 residents and more than 70 dwellings, is among the worst affected areas.
Vision from the fire ground yesterday showed several houses engulfed in flames.
About 50 people sheltered in the local school last night.
Strong winds and soaring temperatures hampered firefighters’ efforts yesterday, however, conditions have since improved.
“We’ve got teams on the ground this morning trying to assess that and sometimes they’re sheds when we thought they might have been homes,” Deputy Commissioner Rogers said.
“We have to go through that and it does take time but it has to happen to make sure we give accurate news to those residents.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his thoughts are with those who lost their homes.
“Fortunately there’s been no loss of life, which is something always to be thankful for. But there are remaining very serious threats today,” Mr Morrison said.
“For those communities around Casino, it’s going to be a very tough day but know that Australians are with you.”
The RFS said about 30 fires were burning across the state.
On Tuesday, emergency warnings were issued for the fires at Drake and Busbys Flat, as well as blazes at Tenterfield and Jackadgery.
Deputy Commissioner Rogers said the RFS was “concerned” there had also been property damage at the Drake fire, which had been burning for weeks but flared up on Tuesday.