A body of an elderly man who had been missing since New Year’s Eve has been found, taking the NSW bushfire death toll to 19.
The 71-year-old’s remains were discovered on his burnt-out south coast property, between a destroyed home and car, on Monday during a large-scale land search.
He had last been seen on New Year’s Eve moving equipment on his property in Nerrigundah, NSW Police say.
Police are awaiting formal identification.
Ten people have died in NSW bushfires in the past week. Another died on December 29 from serious burns sustained in a fire in November.
Two people are missing in remote fire-scorched regions of NSW as hundreds of people brace to discover the fate of their homes.
Showers have brought some relief to firefighters but the Rural Fire Service warns the rain won’t put out the largest and most dangerous blazes before conditions again deteriorate later this week.
At least 60 homes were destroyed in Saturday’s blazes, taking to 576 the number of houses razed since New Year’s Eve.
The RFS expects hundreds more will be confirmed lost in coming days, as assessment teams reach the hardest-hit towns. Areas thought to be hardest hit on Saturday included Bundanoon, Wingello, Batlow, Adelong, the Jervis Bay area, Boydtown, Kiah, Wonboyn, Towamba and Cabramurra.
RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons on Monday told reporters two people are missing after Saturday’s fires – one south of Bombala and another to the west of Bodalla, both in southern NSW.
Police and emergency services are attempting to locate the two people.
More than 135 bushfires were burning across burning on the South Coast, Snowy Mountains, Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Mid North Coast on Monday. The number includes almost 70 uncontained. Almost 2500 firefighters are in the field.
At 6am, there are 136 fires which continue to burn across NSW, 69 uncontained. All fires remain at Advice. Today crews will focus on containment of these large fires, working with heavy plant and aviation assets. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/f2OWkze8nC
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 5, 2020
“I don’t think it will be too long before we are up over five million hectares of largely forested country burning along the Great Dividing Range from the Queensland border to the Victorian border,” Mr Fitzsimmons said.
“Overnight, with some of the thunderstorm activity, we have seen localised shower activity and we are expecting to see some of that over the coming days and less so once we get through to warm conditions later in this week.”
Conditions on Friday could again surpass 40C, prompting severe fire danger.
In the far south, Eden residents were able to return to their homes on Sunday as crews continued to battle the border fire which has scorched 271,000 hectares since igniting west of Victorian town Mallacoota.
Fire danger ratings on Monday will be high or low-moderate across much of the state, with only parts of the state’s north experiencing “very high” risk.
The Bureau of Meteorology is expecting some showers to cooler conditions across fire grounds in the state’s south.
“Though not a huge amount, that (rain) should slow down the fires,” duty forecaster Jake Phillips said on Sunday.
Eighteen people, including three firefighters, have died in the NSW bushfires since October.
At least 1482 homes, 100 facilities and 2339 outbuildings such as sheds have been confirmed destroyed across NSW since July. Close to 20,000 buildings have been saved.
Good news from @BegaValleyShire for the residents of Bega, Tathra, Merimbula, Pambula, Eden, Bermagui and villages to the north and south, with news that they can now return. With areas of active fire still around, residents need to monitor conditions and travel with care #nswrfs
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 6, 2020
Mr Fitzsimmons said the RFS was identifying roles for deployed Australian Defence Force personnel to carry out throughout the week.
NSW Transport Minister and Bega MP Andrew Constance, meanwhile, called on state and federal government to get support staff into fire-ravaged areas as soon as possible as communities grapple with “unimaginable grief”.
“We have to get welfare offices into the people and I know that’s happening now,” Mr Constance told the Seven Network on Monday.
“We just have to get in there, start to rebuild and start getting on – we have great mayors who have been working around the clock and also been fire affected themselves.”
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All people missing in Victoria’s deadly bushfires have been found safe, but at least 200 homes have been destroyed.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday confirmed the four people missing on Sunday were accounted for and no one was listed as missing in the fires that have razed East Gippsland and the northeast.
He also announced a new and permanent $50 million government agency Bushfire Recovery Victoria, to be headed by former police chief commissioner Ken Lay to respond to the fires.
“It will coordinate all government effort,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
“Unlike the authority that was established in the wake of the February 2009 fires, this is not a time-limited or an authority that’s about clean-up and recovery just for these bushfires.
“Because we’re going to see longer fire seasons and we are going to see – we should just be honest about the fact – we’re going to see more and more fires, more and more damage as each fire season comes.”
Thick smoke from bushfires is likely to blanket Melbourne for days, prompting a warning from authorities.
The air quality is at its worst in East Gippsland, where dozens of bushfires continue to burn on Monday.
There are 31 fires burning across Victoria as of Monday morning, with 18 in eastern Gippsland and six in the northeast.
One million hectares has been burnt across Victoria.
Rain has started to fall, but not across all fire-affected areas and not enough to douse the fires, and is creating new difficulties.
A Forest Fire Management vehicle flipped on a greasy road on Sunday because rain had not fallen in the area for so long, Mr Andrews said.
No one in the vehicle was seriously injured.
The deadly fires have killed Buchan man Mick Roberts and Maramingo Creek man Fred Becker.
The cooler weather has allowed military helicopters to deliver supplies to isolated communities and help with evacuations, reaching 13 communities on Sunday.
WATCH & ACT for Anglers Rest, Bingo Munjie, Cobungra, Dinner Plain, Falls Creek, Glen Valley, Glen Wills, Hinnomunjie, Hotham Heights, Omeo, Omeo Valley, Shannonvale for multiple fires in the area. Monitor changes to the situation https://t.co/XaEKkzKQgK #VicFires pic.twitter.com/B66dR5t7JR
— CFA Updates (@CFA_Updates) January 6, 2020
They also rescued 406 people from Mallacoota but attempts to fly out another 300 on Monday were stalled because of the smoke. Navy ships brought out more than 1100 people on Saturday.
More than 3500 properties remain without power, with AusNet bringing in generators when possible and restoring the network when it is safe to do so.
All warnings now sit at a watch and act level.
The state government has announced a fund to support Victorian bushfire survivors, contributing $2 million.
Mr Andrews has again stressed that Victoria cannot take any goods or food for donations.
“I don’t want to appear blunt. We know where it comes from. These donations come from great kindness, but it’s now causing issues, and money is the best thing from our point of view,” he said.
* 18 people dead, two missing
* 136 bushfires burning on the South Coast, Snowy Mountains, Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Mid North Coast
* Almost five million hectares burned
* 1482 homes confirmed destroyed but number expected to rise significantly
* Two people dead
* Thirty-seven bushfires burning in Gippsland, northeast and alpine regions
* More than a million hectares burned
* More than 200 homes confirmed destroyed but significantly more expected
* Three people dead
* 25 bushfires burning on Kangaroo Island, Adelaide Hills, top of the Eyre Peninsula and the southeast
* More than 200,000 hectares burned
* 88 homes confirmed destroyed but number expected to rise significantly
* Thirty-three bushfires burning in the far north, central, southeast and Central Highlands
* 250,000 hectares burned
* 45 homes confirmed destroyed
* 30 bushfires burning, in the Goldfield-Esperance region, Wheatbelt, Perth region and southeast
* 1.5 million hectares burned
* One home confirmed destroyed
* 23 bushfires burning across the state’s north, east and south
* More than 32,000 hectares burned
* Two homes confirmed destroyed
* One bushfire burning in Namadgi National Park
* Significant smoke haze from interstate blazes
* No current bushfires
* Five homes confirmed destroyed