Catastrophic bushfires in eastern Australia have killed at least three people and forced thousands from their homes. The death toll is expected to rise as firefighters struggle towards hard-to-reach communities.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that, if needed, the military could be called on to help some 1,300 firefighters who are tackling around 100 separate blazes.
Several people are still unaccounted for and 30 more have been injured – mostly firefighters working for hours on end in smouldering scrubland and blazing forests of towering eucalyptus. Hundreds of civilians have also volunteered to help their hard-hit neighbours.
“My only thoughts today are with those who have lost their lives and their families,” Morrison said.
A body was found in a burnt-out building near the east-coast town of Taree, police said, while another victim was found in a car and a woman died despite medics trying for several hours to save her.
As hot and windy weather eased slightly on Saturday, the number of most serious fires fell to just a handful from an unprecedented 17 on Friday.
But within an area spanning almost 1,000 kilometres, schools were burned and at least 150 homes were destroyed, while authorities were forced to evacuate detention centres and old people’s homes.