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NSW fires destroy at least 150 homes, three people found dead

ABC News logo ABC News 9/11/2019

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Three people are dead, five are unaccounted for and more than 150 homes have been destroyed as New South Wales's unprecedented bushfire emergency continues through a second day.

Three fires remain at emergency warning level in NSW — at the height of the chaos yesterday, 17 blazes were given that status.

a close up of an old building: Bobin Public School was razed by the bushfires. (ABC News: Lily Mayers) © Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Bobin Public School was razed by the bushfires. (ABC News: Lily Mayers) Firefighters said they found one body in a vehicle near Kangawalla, about 10 kilometres east of Glen Innes, where one of the most intense blazes took hold in the state's north.

The Rural Fire Service (RFS) confirmed this morning another person, a woman, died in hospital after she was found by authorities with severe burns near Glen Innes.

"The reports were initially burns to 40 to 50 per cent of her body," RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

The woman has been confirmed as Vivian Chaplain, 69, who died while protecting her home at Wytaliba, north west of Coffs Harbour.

Elsewhere, NSW Police said a body was found in a burnt-out building at Johns River, north of Taree this afternoon on the state’s mid-north coast.

The other people still unaccounted for are in the Glen Innes area, Mr Fitzsimmons said the number was expected to increase.

"That is not necessarily a [reason] for alarm, but we cannot rule out that the really great concerns that there could be [more] fatalities," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Australian Defence Force would provide support to firefighters where required and financial assistance would be made available to people affected by the fires.

ABC_1 © ABC ABC_1 Authorities told the ABC 60 structures have been destroyed in the Glen Innes area, including homes, sheds and some buildings at the public school.

The town's mayor Carol Sparks described the situation as "horrific".

"The school was lost, [houses] were burnt, people were burnt, lives were lost," she said.

"People battled to save their houses and then had to walk out because their cars had blown up, it was just horrific."

The Insurance Council of Australia has declared the NSW north coast bushfires as a catastrophe, meaning those affected will be prioritised by insurers with many policies including emergency accommodation.

In Nymboida, where the Liberation Trail fire has burnt through more than 49,000 hectares, residents spoke of their devastation.

Bushfire © ABC Bushfire Peter Simpson told ABC News said he had saved his home and was thankful to be safe.

"It was like an inferno, like the apocalypse," he said.

"Every second house is gone … The village is gone. And surrounding houses, that I guarantee, most of Nymboida will be displaced because they're going to have nowhere to live.

"I'm really sorry for every person in the area that's lost out … My heart bleeds for them. There's nothing that the firies could have done."

Bushfires © ABC Bushfires As of 4:30pm Saturday, there were 81 fires burning across the state, with 36 uncontained.

Mr Fitzsimmons said a number of firefighters had been injured in battling the blazes, but none of the injuries were life-threatening.

"They have ranged from smoke inhalation to minor burns, to other injuries associated with slips and falls, through to serious lacerations to an arm," he said.

There are about 1,000 firefighters on the ground with 300 support staff.

At Wallabi Point, 90 kilometres south-west of Port Macquarie, residents were spotted on Saturday morning sheltering from the Hillville fire.

The fire is one of three fires at emergency warning level across the state.

The others are the Mount Nardi National Park fire north of Lismore and the Gum Scrub fire north of Port Macquarie.

Speaking this morning, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the situation was "beyond serious".

"These [are] fires that we have not seen before," she said.

The RFS also confirmed more than 30 people had been injured in the blazes.

Bushfire © ABC Bushfire Homes were destroyed by a blaze at Hillville, south-west of Taree, which also ripped along the Pacific Highway and burnt trucks.

In Bobin, 85km south-west of Port Macquarie, several homes were destroyed and the school, which dates to 1883, was razed.

Speaking from his home, which is caught up in the Hillville fire, Mid Coast Council Mayor David West said he feared for people living in the area.

"It is a monster," Councillor West said.

"It is such a tinder-dry environment, [and] the amount of water that we have available is critical at the moment.

Bushfire © ABC Bushfire "I plead with people that aren't affected by the fires to ration what water they're using, because it may get to the point where we need the water we have available, potable water, to fight the fires.

"It is that bad."

In a Facebook post, the RFS said: "While conditions have eased compared to yesterday, Very High fire danger will continue for many areas today."

Port Macquarie appeared apocalyptic yesterday as the sky turned red and thick dark smoke engulfed the regional centre.

Yesterday, there were multiple reports of people being trapped in their homes.

Some of the fires were so fierce they began creating their own weather systems.

Almost 1,200 firefighters and two large air tankers were deployed to fight the blazes on Friday.

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