One man is confirmed to have died in the NSW bushfire disaster.
A 63-year-old man who lost his life protecting his home at Lake Munmorah on the Central Coast is the first confirmed casualty.
Hundreds of residents in fire zones were evacuated yesterday and many homes were lost.
The Blues Mountains, Central Coast and Macarthur region were all affected by the 100-odd blazes that continue to burn, some out of control, across the state.
Electrician and father of three Ben Patterson was evacuated from his home on Carlisle Street, Yanderra, at 1pm yesterday.
“We were at the shops and heading home, we could see the fire brigade flying down the street,” he said. “I couldn’t see flames so I wasn’t too concerned.
“It wasn’t until a few hours later that a mate of mine, a police oficer, called and said the fire was across the road.”
The fires damage is expected to be the worst in a decade.
Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons was visibly upset at a press conference this morning.
Fitzsimmons choked back tears when asked about the condition of two firefighters who were hospitalised yesterday.
“We have the best firefighters in the world, second to none,” he said.
Yesterday, Fitzsimmons said “We’ll be counting properties [lost] in the dozens, if not the hundreds.”
Lizzy Lane, 19, from Tahmoor near Bargo, prepared to evacuate overnight but was spared.
“I had to help clean out the dead leaves from the gutters, put the horses in the front paddock and locate all the animals on our property,” she said.
“It’s scary to think that fires are burning so close. It could reach your house overnight.”
Sarah Robinson, 19, from Yanderra was evacuated yesterday at 1pm. They eventually returned to their home shortly after midnight, this morning.
“The police made us leave the house at 1:30pm,” she said.
“Mum wasn’t allowed to grab anything. We were nervous. We’re still worried that the fire could start up again.
“The RFS contacted us first and then the police door-knocked, telling us to leave.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott today visited affected areas. “Australia is a country prone to natural disasters, but every time it strikes, it hurts and we grieve for all those hurting because of what has happened in NSW,” he said.
Cooler temperatures today will help the thousands of fire fighters who are tackling the blazes, but there is widespread concern that temperatures are expected to reach the mid- to high-30s again late in the weekend. – Matthew Connellan
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