Death toll continues to rise after New Year's Eve fires

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

The bushfire death toll continues to rise after the bodies of four people were found on Wednesday following New Year’s Eve fires across Australia’s southeast.

Shortly before 7.30am the body of an unidentified man was found in Yatte Yattah on NSW’s South Coast, authorities confirmed.

His body was found in a burnt-out car on a road off of the Princes Highway, roughly 10km north of Ulladulla and 6km west of Lake Conjola.

Later on Wednesday the family of Mick Roberts confirmed he had died in his home in Victoria’s East Gippsland.

“His body has been found in his house... very sad day for us to start the year but we're a bloody tight family and we will never forget our mate and my beautiful Uncle Mick," his niece Leah Parson wrote on Facebook.

His family held concerns over his welfare after he failed to contact them on Tuesday.

Victoria Police said they are en route to the area and are aware of the situation.

Police confirm further bushfire deaths

Addressing media shortly after 3pm, NSW Police Force Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys confirmed two further bodies had been discovered.

The body of a man was found in a burnt-out vehicle in Sussex Inlet near Jervis Bay.

Another body was discovered by ambulance crews at Coolagolite, 10km east of Cobargo.

The Rural Fire Service told reporters following initial assessments, 176 homes had been lost, including 89 in Conjola Park.

The discoveries follow the deaths of a father and son near Cobargo on New Year’s Eve from the bushfires, which are devastating vast parts of the coastline.

The body of a 70-year-old Yatte Yattah was also found on Tuesday evening outside his home.

The orange sky pictured in Nowra, 60km north of Yatte Yattah, on Tuesday. Source: Getty

On Monday night 28-year-old volunteer firefighter Samuel McPaul was killed as his truck flipped near the NSW-Victoria border.

The NSW death toll for the fires in the state’s south now stands at seven since Monday.

Since the start of July, at least 15 people have died and 1087 homes have been destroyed by bushfires in NSW. More than 3.6 million hectares - three times the size of Sydney's metro area - have been burnt. 

More than 110 fires continue to burn across NSW on New Year's Day and losses from Tuesday's fires are likely to be widespread.

Up to 50 properties around Lake Conjola have reportedly been destroyed as well as significant losses in Fishermans Paradise, Broulee and Mogo.

"Not only are we seeing outbuildings and homes but we're seeing considerable community infrastructure (destroyed)," Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said on Wednesday.

"We're looking at businesses, halls, there's reports of a number of schools, two or three schools that have been heavily impacted."

Property inspectors would tour fire sites across NSW throughout Wednesday and authorities would be seeking to clear and open arterial roads.

A 72-year-old man also remains unaccounted for at Belowra, about 50km north west of Cobargo.

Residents battle bushfires without power

Some of the worst-affected communities along the coast battled bushfires into Tuesday night with no power and limited telecommunications.

All power had been lost from South Nowra to Moruya and "potentially beyond", affecting at least 46,000 people and the supported telecommunications network.

Meanwhile major roads, including several parts of the Princes Highway, are likely to remain closed for some time due to hazards.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian plans to visit south coast communities on Wednesday, while the federal government on Wednesday made disaster recovery assistance available to five south coast regions, including Bega Valley and Snowy Valleys.

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