The death toll from the NSW fires has risen to seven after the body of a man fleeing the flames was found in a burnt-out car near Yatte Yattah, near Lake Conjola, on Wednesday morning.
Three people were confirmed dead on Wednesday including the man at Yatte Yattah, a body found in a vehicle in Sussex Inlet and a body found by ambulance officers in Coolagolite, near Cobargo.
The fatalities are on top of father and son, Robert Salway, 63, and Patrick Salway, 29, who died defending their dairy farm at Cobargo near Bega on New Year's Eve and volunteer firefighter Sam McPaul, 28, who died near Albury when his truck rolled in a freak firestorm.
"Unfortunately, I hate the number of homes we’ve lost but at the end of the day this is about people’s lives. That’s the most important thing right now," said NSW police deputy commissioner Gary Worboys.
More than 170 homes have also been destroyed in a devastating start to 2020 in NSW.
As the nation celebrated the new year, thousands of residents in small communities on the NSW south coast and in eastern Victoria were forced to flee uncontrollable blazes.
Raging flames ripped through towns, consumed properties and left hundreds of people homeless at the start of a new decade.
Hardest hit was Conjola Park where 89 homes have been lost. In Malula Bay 40 homes are confirmed lost and in nearby Rosedale 15 homes were destroyed.
Damage has also been wrought in the Snowy Mountains and towards Tumbarumba, as well as on the NSW Central Coast.
Some of the worst-affected communities along the coast battled bushfires into Tuesday night with no power and limited telecommunications, while tens of thousands of NSW residents remain without power.
"This is by no means the end of the losses, just simply because crews are still out assessing," Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said on Wednesday.
He said emergency services were doing all they could to get to people stuck across the south coast.
"Some of these people, they may be hurt, but they also may be very concerned about where they're at and want to reconnect with people," he said.
"Today has been about trying to reconnect with people that have been isolated in areas.
"I don't think that work is finished yet."
In the nation’s capital, huge smoke clouds forced hundreds of residents to wear face masks in Canberra where the air quality was the worst in the world at 9.30am Wednesday according to an international air quality index, pipping smoggy New Delhi in India.
While revellers in major cities spent New Year’s Eve marvelling at fireworks spectaculars, firefighters across multiple states were still battling out of control fires.
#rosedale #NotMyPrimeMinister receiving some videos and photos from family. I'll keep posting. pic.twitter.com/7MsRg2OkEB
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In NSW, fire conditions are expected to ease on Wednesday after a cool change – which brought brought gusts of up to 80km/h and dry lightning strikes – crossed the state.
Worse to come
However firefighters are bracing for more horrific conditions on Saturday, with hot temperatures and strong winds expected to be worse than New Year's Eve.
"There is every potential that the conditions on Saturday will be as bad or worse than we saw yesterday (Tuesday)," Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said.
The winds are expected to be very strong with temperatures forecast to surpass 40C, mixed with low humidity, producing a severe fire danger.
The state's southeast, the southern ranges, the Illawarra, south coast and the central ranges are expected to experience the worst of the conditions.
Authorities are also concerned about the Green Wattle Creek fire southwest of Sydney which has broken containment lines.
"Crews are working hard to get some containment before Saturday but we are concerned about that fire because of its potential run into far western Sydney," Mr Rogers said.
A cool change is expected on Saturday but not until late in the afternoon on the coast and even later in the ranges.