A total of 18 people have now died nationwide since the bushfire season began in late 2019.
Blazes left a path of destruction across the New South Wales South Coast and Victoria’s East Gippsland regions on Tuesday, claiming at least eight lives.
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons on Wednesday said “worsening conditions” would return again on Saturday.
Extensive smoke continues to blanket Gippsland and northeastern Victoria today even as the weather conditions have eased. Stable conditions over the next couple of days mean smoke will remain. Fire Danger increasing again Saturday. #AustralianFires https://t.co/u9Uf1R6n2J pic.twitter.com/wR5gzqbKC1
— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) January 1, 2020
“We’re expecting to see pretty much a repeat of the sorts of weather conditions that we experienced down the southern areas of NSW yesterday (December 31),” he said.
“We’re expecting widespread severe fire dangers dominated by very hot conditions, up into the 40s, dry air coming out of the centre of Australia and westerly winds that will dominate.”
The temperature is forecast to reach 43C on Saturday in southern coastal towns such as Nowra and down towards Bega. Over the Victorian border, it could tip 41C in Mallacoota.
Severe heatwave conditions are forecast over most of NSW and northeastern parts of Victoria.
“North-easterly winds will extend throughout the NSW coast during Thursday and Friday as a new high pressure system develops over the Tasman Sea,” the Bureau of Meteorology states.
“The next southerly change looks set to affect much of the coast later Saturday or Sunday.”
Extensive bushfire smoke from #EastGippsland and southeastern #NSW has travelled over the #TasmanSea and is now affecting the south island of #NewZealand. Latest at https://t.co/JzdVx3m1rH pic.twitter.com/DASVmBCjzh
— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) January 1, 2020
Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp on Wednesday said: “We do have a dynamic and a dangerous fire situation across the state”.
He said Saturday would be the “spike” day.
The weather bureau said conditions had eased in Victoria and the state would experience “stable conditions over the next couple of days” including extensive, settled smoke haze.
“Fire danger increasing again Saturday,” the BOM said.
The sky above Betka Beach in Mallacoota in the state’s northeast turned blood red on Tuesday while areas such as Sarsfield and Buchan suffered significant property destruction.
The Country Fire Authority at 4pm on Wednesday had forecast fire danger ratings to increase from high and very high over the next couple of days to “severe” on Saturday in the East Gippsland, North East, Northern Country and Mallee districts.
As of Wednesday night, seven people were confirmed dead and two people unaccounted for in NSW, while one man died in Victoria’s East Gippsland and four others were still missing.
Authorities hold grave concerns for their welfare, warning the bushfire death toll could rise.
THE VICTIMS NATIONWIDE THIS WEEK
• Samuel McPaul, a 28-year-old NSW RFS volunteer died at a Jingellic property on Monday
• Father and son Robert Salway, 63, and Patrick Salway, 29, died at a Wandella property about 10 kilometres northwest of Cobargo on the NSW South Coast on Monday
• A 70-year-old man was found dead outside a Yatte Yattah home, about six kilometres west of Lake Conjola, on Tuesday night
• A man’s body was found in a burnt out car on a road off the Princes Highway at Yatte Yattah on Wednesday morning
• The body of a man, yet to be identified, was found in a vehicle in Sussex Inlet shortly before midday on Wednesday
• A body was found outside a home at Coolagolite, about 10km east of Cobargo, on Wednesday
• Mick Roberts, 67, was found dead in his home in Buchan, in Victoria’s East Gippsland, on Wednesday
Earlier on Wednesday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said four people were still missing, but would not say what communities in East Gippsland the people belonged to.
“Everything is being done to try and establish the whereabouts of these people,” he told reporters at the Bairnsdale incident control centre.
Meanwhile, a 72-year-old man remains unaccounted for west of Narooma at Belowra, about 50km north west of Cobargo in NSW, and a 70-year-old woman remains unaccounted for at Conjola Park.
THE OTHER NSW VICTIMS THIS FIRE SEASON
• RFS volunteer firefighters and fathers Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, were killed when a fallen tree caused their tanker to roll south of Sydney in December
• A 24-year-old Queensland man died in a South Australian car crash linked to a bushfire in the area at Lameroo, in the Murraylands, in December
• The body of Ron Selth, 69, was found at his Charleston property after he died in the Cudlee Creek bushfire in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills in December
• Barry Parsons, 58, was found in burnt-out bushland northwest of Kempsey on the Mid North Coast in November
• Julie Fletcher, 63, whose body was found in a burnt out home in the town of Johns River, 40km north of Taree on the Mid North Coast, in November
• George Nole, 85, whose remains were discovered inside a burnt out car at the Kangawalla fire, near Glen Innes, in November
• Grandmother-of-six Vivian Chaplain, 69, was found unconscious and with burns to 40 to 50 per cent of her body in Wytaliba in November and later died
• Couple Bob Lindsey, 77, and Gwen Hyde, 68, were found dead in Coongbar, 70 kilometres southwest of Casino, as a result of the Long Gully Road bushfire in early October