- At least three people have died in bushfires in NSW
- About 30 people are injured
- The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment and the Disaster Recovery Allowance are available for people who have been impacted
- At least 150 homes destroyed, the figure is expected to rise
- Dozens of fires are burning across the state, many out of control
- Conditions expected to worsen on Tuesday
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian have learnt first hand the difficulties firefighters are facing trying to tackle the raging fires in the north of the state.
They received a briefing on the unprecedented firestorms at the Mid-North Coast Fire Control Centre in Wauchope on Sunday, where they were told firefighters have found it hard to contain and access some fire areas.
Mr Morrison was heckled during the briefing by a climate change protester.
“Climate change is real, can’t you see,” the protester yelled, before being escorted out of the building.
When asked by reporters about links between the fires and climate change both Mr Morrison and Ms Berejiklian sidestepped the issue.
“I’m focused on the needs of the people in this room today, as is the Premier,” Mr Morrison said.
“[We] have firefighters out there saving someone else’s house while their own house is burning down, and when we are in that sort of a situation, that is where attention must be.”
Ms Bereijiklian said she was focused on “protecting life”.
“If you talk to people who are traumatised, you need to address their concerns foster foremost. We have time on our hands to talk about those other issues,” she said.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese was asked about climate change links earlier on Sunday.
“There is a need once we get through this period to really have a look at what the science is telling us and what the experts are telling us, which is that we have had a very prolonged drought that’s been more intense than previous droughts and that this bushfire season,” he told the ABC.
“This is a very bad omen at this time of the year that we’re having these devastating fires.”
It came after Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud warned the fires could get worse on Tuesday, when strong winds are expected.
Mr Littleproud also announced the federal government had activated financial support payments for those hit by the fires.
He said the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment and the Disaster Recovery Allowance would immediately put cash into the pockets of those in need.
“This provides $1000 for eligible adults and $400 for eligible children,” he said in a statement.
“The payment is available to people whose homes has been severely damaged or destroyed, who have been seriously injured or who have lost a family member in the fires.
“This is cash in the hand to give families dignity and help them recover from the fires.
Three deaths have already been confirmed in the fires and there are fears the number could rise.
At least 150 homes have been destroyed by the fires although this number is likely to climb as detailed assessments begin.
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says assessment teams are bracing themselves for “considerable losses”.
“There are communities and fire grounds where we are expecting to tally up considerable losses of homes and other properties,” Mr Fitzsimmons said.
“A number of our own fire stations have been destroyed.”
Fire assessment teams would comb through devastated areas over the coming days, Mr Fitzsimmons said.
“The more forensic process of getting in and doing the detailed assessments will come over coming days.
“Clearly, from what we are seeing, and we do not have indicative assessments from all these fire grounds yet, but estimates are at least 150.”
Three people were confirmed dead on Saturday evening.
Wytaliba resident Vivian Chaplain, 69, was named as one of the victims.
Ms Chaplain was treated for burns before being transferred to a Sydney hospital where she later died, the state’s rural fire service said on Saturday.
The body of Julie Fletcher, 63, was found in a burnt-out home in North Taree, while George Nole’s body was found in a burnt-out car in Glen Innes.
A team of volunteer firefighters from the Tasmanian Fire Service are scheduled to arrive in NSW to help local firefighters battle the blazes.
Additional reporting by Claudia Farhart and Evan Young