Australians yesterday began sifting through the ashes of hundreds of bushfires that have ravaged the country, relieved that their worst fears were unrealised -- but wary of a long and brutal summer ahead.
Firefighters were still battling around 140 blazes across the country’s eastern seaboard, but a respite from “catastrophic” weather conditions meant the danger from many fires was downgraded.
The northern state of Queensland remained on high alert, with residents on the north shore of popular holiday town Noosa told to “leave immediately” to avoid an “unpredictable” fire burning nearby.
In the worst-hit areas of New South Wales, cooler southerly winds eased conditions -- a stark contrast with the gale-force gusts and high temperatures that plagued firefighters for much of Tuesday.
In all, 50 homes were damaged or destroyed, and around 20 people were injured, but most populated areas were spared.
Residents of the small towns of Glenreagh and Nana Glen returned to find houses intact, a nearby 150,000-hectare (370,000-acre) inferno having stopped just short of their doors. But on nearby farmland, unlucky families faced homes destroyed and cars transformed into blackened husks.
Tough conditions were expected to flare again in Queensland and New South Wales at the weekend as the temperature rises and winds pick up.
More than 300 new fires began in the state Tuesday, with 19 classified as emergencies. They spanned a distance of almost 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) -- from the outskirts of Sydney north toward Brisbane.