High temperatures and strong winds fuelled fast-moving bushfires across several Australian states on Sunday, 20 December, destroying homes and threatening several communities. Emergency services website issued warnings for the states of New South wales and Victoria, telling residents to flee their homes.
There are no reports of any deaths or injuries so far.
In New South Wales fire-fighters battled more than 40 blazes that threatened homes north of Newcastle in Williamtown, local media reported. Several fires broke out in the state of Victoria on Saturday 19 December, including in or near the towns of Epping, Elaine and Scotsburn, local media said. A grass fire burnt alongside the Hume freeway in Epping, while in Elaine a large shed smouldered, Channel Nine network said.
Fire crews returned to the town of Scotsburn on Sunday to fight a blaze that began a day earlier which had destroyed at least six homes, local media reported.
Scotsburn resident Sam Rundell returned with his parents Graeme and Sue Rundell to find their sheds, barn and car destroyed. "Just looking at it now, you can't possibly fathom it being the way it was," he said.
Another resident Malcolm Lee said it was hard to understand what had happened.
"Unbelievable. It's hard to believe, you've got to see it to believe it. I mean these trees have stood for hundreds and hundreds of years, and they've fallen like flies," he said.
Local media reported that destruction from the fire burnt around 4,000 hectares near Scotsburn. Scotsburn resident Bruce Rae said he lost everything around his home, after the wind changed direction as he prepared to leave the area.
"Our plan was to pack up the valuables and obviously photos and those sorts of things and leave. And we got a load in the car, and the fire turned, and that's all the time we had. Just to wet things down and get back in the house," he said. "Lucky to be alive, absolutely lucky to be alive," Rae added.
A cool weather change hit Victoria's west by Sunday afternoon, as rain fell on some of the fire-affected areas and crews continued to work to get on top of the large blaze, local media reported.
Emergency warnings remain in place in the state's north.