A man is dead and hundreds of properties are feared lost after the latest day of "awful" bushfires swept through NSW in extreme and dangerous conditions.
The 47-year-old man died of a cardiac arrest on Saturday night while defending a friend's rural property from a bushfire near Batlow, southwest of Canberra.
This now brings the nation’s bushfire death toll to 23 since the start of the season.
NSW communities are bracing for news of property damage and loss after another long night for the state’s firefighters.
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said they were receiving reports of "significant damage and destruction" on Saturday night after more than a dozen blazes reached an emergency warning alert level throughout the day.
He believed property losses could run into the hundreds.
"Some areas alone are reporting at least 15 properties alight in some locations," Mr Fitzsimmons told ABC TV.
Image from Batlow.
That is horrifying. pic.twitter.com/l0Gwl638js
— Andrew Ferguson (@AndrewRLP) January 4, 2020
RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers later said properties had been reported lost or impacted in the Batlow area south of Tumut, North Nowra and Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands.
"Hopefully in a couple of hours conditions will start to ease but I've got to say there is so much fire out there that I don't think the danger is going to pass for some time," Mr Rogers said on Saturday night.
"We have no chance of getting containment on these fires anytime soon."
Two emergency warnings are in place – one at the Morton Fire just five kilometres southwest of Bundanoon in the Southern Highlands and at the 240,000-hectare Border Fire in the Bega Valley region.
As firefighters worked through the night, a large water tank burst in the town of Cooma, south of Canberra, injuring a woman and sending water flooding through streets and homes.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Sunday there are no reports of anybody missing in the state.
A statewide total fire ban is in place on Sunday while a week-long state of emergency – the third in as many months – continues.
— Tobie Payne (@tobeee123) January 2, 2020
Victoria fires rage on but forecast improves
More evacuation orders have been issued to Victorians overnight as massive blazes continue to ravage the state's east.
People in Dandongadale, Freeburgh, Wandiligong and surrounding areas in northeast Victoria were advised to leave overnight as a southwest wind change fanned bushfire flames.
Dozens of fires were burning in Victoria as dawn broke on Sunday and four are at emergency level – one 13km of Walwa in the state’s northeast, one in the Upper Snowy area, one at Wangarabell and another in the Cann Valley.
Seven people remain missing in East Gippsland blazes, on top of two confirmed dead.
More than 900,000 hectares of land has been overrun by flames, with about 110 properties and 220 outbuildings razed so far in the state.
Temperatures soared to the early and mid-40s in parts of East Gippsland and northeast Victoria on Saturday, with total fire bans in place for a swag of weather districts.
More than 70 new fires were sparked in the 24 hours to 6pm on Saturday.
Cooler conditions, lighter winds and a lack of lightning on Sunday are expected to bring some relief to firefighters.
— Brendan (@brendanh_au) January 4, 2020
The mercury is forecast to peak in the early 20s in East Gippsland, with rainfall of about 20 millimetres expected later in the day.
In the northeast, temperatures could hit the late 20s in some parts, with some rainfall – albeit it likely less than five millimetres – expected.
"That will help subdue the fire activity," Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Dean Stewart told AAP.
Despite the shift, Premier Daniel Andrews has urged people to heed warnings and not be complacent.
"Lives can be lost if people don't follow the instructions they're given," he told reporters.
The towns of Omeo and Swifts Creek in East Gippsland as well as Corryong near the NSW border are among those to have been under threat.
‘This is a marathon event’
About 50 people were evacuated from Omeo by Chinook helicopters on Saturday but about 300 chose to stay in the township, Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville confirmed.
The evacuees were flown to Bairnsdale on the western side of the fires, before being transported to Sale.
In Gippsland, firefighters have been working to save critical infrastructure and the Country Fire Authority's Andy Gillham said they were "in for the long haul".
"This is a marathon event and we expect to be busy managing these fires for at least the next eight weeks."
The fires have already killed Buchan man Mick Roberts and Maramingo Creek man Fred Becker.
About 70 per cent of the 100,000 population of the fire-impacted East Gippsland have fled.
Major highways have been closed for days, phone and powerlines are down, and residents have been told not to drink tap water amid contamination fears.
Naval vessels plan to re-stock and return to the township to evacuate more people.
About 500 people are at a relief centre in Bairnsdale and there is an overflow centre at the local racecourse.
A state of emergency remains in place for Victoria throughout next week.
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