Australia fires: More than 200 homes torched in NSW

Firefighters look at a bushfire approaching in Old Bar New South Wales Australia on Nov 10 2019

For the first time, Australia's largest city and the surrounding area faced the highest level of fire warning - with authorities cautioning that "lives and homes will be at risk".

Cooler conditions were expected to ease the danger in the state of New South Wales, where 83 fires were still burning, however changes in wind direction in the northeastern state of Queensland were expected to whip up flames there.

"There is nothing built or created to withstand the sorts of conditions that you can expect under catastrophic" conditions, said Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of the rural fire service for New South Wales state, which encompasses Sydney.

Bushfires are a common and deadly threat in Australia's hot, dry summers but the ferocity and early arrival of this year's outbreak in the southern hemisphere spring has caught many by surprise. The worst fires on Tuesday emerged in the state's northeast, where three people have died and more than 150 homes have been destroyed since Friday.

In New South Wales, more than 50 homes were damaged or destroyed and 13 firefighters were injured overnight by catastrophic wildfires across that subsided on Wednesday.

Fitzsimmons said in an afternoon update a firefighter battling a blaze had suffered a heart attack, although his condition was unknown. It is also the world's driest continent after Antarctic, which scientists say leaves Australians particularly vulnerable to weather extremes associated with a changing climate.

"The fire crews, the police, the ambulance ... everyone has just been working tirelessly for the last 72 hours and we can not thank them enough", Mr Watkins said.

One resident who evacuated, Diksha Anand, told the BBC she had feared losing her house.

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NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said the result was "a dividend paid by the great preparation" of the NSW Rural Fire Service.

It brings the total number of homes affected by fires in NSW over the past week to more than 200.

"My only thoughts today are with those who have lost their lives and their families".

Police are investigating reports that several fires may have been started deliberately.

Morrison's deputy, Michael McCormack, said Monday that now was not the time for political debate on climate change. "What they don't need is Adam Bandt and Richard Di Natale trying to get a political point score on this".

Nana Glen has been declared an emergency zone as services work to bring the fires under control. Catastrophic is the highest level of bush fire danger.

A water-bombing helicopter crashed while fighting a fire at Pechey, west of Brisbane, but the pilot survived with only minor injuries.

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