Australia

NSW South Coast fires claim eighth victim as PM rolls out $2 billion recovery fund

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has committed $2 billion over the next two years to the bushfire recovery.

NSW police have confirmed an eighth person has died as bushfires ravage the state’s South Coast region.

A NSW Police Force spokesperson said the 71-year-old man was reported missing on 31 December while moving equipment on his property in Nerrigundah.

Until now, emergency services had been unable to get to the area due to the large-scale bushfires. On Monday police managed to reach the fire-damaged area and discovered his body between the property and a car about 4pm.

Another man remains missing in the region.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.
AAP

So far, 20 people have died during NSW’s bushfire season.

More than 135 bushfires were burning across NSW on Monday, including almost 70 uncontained. Almost 2,500 firefighters are in the field.

"I don't think it will be too long before we are up over five million hectares of the largely forested country burning along the Great Dividing Range from the Queensland border to the Victorian border," NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

"Overnight, with some of the thunderstorm activity, we have seen localised shower activity and we are expecting to see some of that over the coming days and less so once we get through to warm conditions later in this week."

The grim discovery came as Prime Minister Scott Morrison committed $2 billion to a national bushfire recovery fund.

Mr Morrison said the money would be paid out over the next two calendar years.

"If further funds are required, further funds will be provided," the prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

"I have no doubt they will have a long list of recovery tasks that they will be performing, as we saw in Queensland.

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Two people missing in NSW as fires burn
Two people missing in NSW as fires burn

"Rebuilding bridges, roads and other critical infrastructure and we will work hand in glove, as we have in response to previous crises, to ensure the recovery commences and is undertaken in a timely way and getting that support, particularly to small businesses."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison takes a look at a map of an area impacted by bushfire during an operational update in Nowra, Sunday 5 January, 2020
Prime Minister Scott Morrison takes a look at a map of an area impacted by bushfire during an operational update in Nowra, Sunday 5 January, 2020
AAP

He said the agency will model its operations closely on the successful response provided to the North Queensland floods and will be headed by former federal police chief Andrew Colvin.

The prime minister says he is unfazed by the impact of the bushfire recovery fund on the federal budget.

"The surplus is no focus for me," Mr Morrison said.

"What matters to me is the human cost and meeting whatever cost we need to meet."

The government has already announced the rollout of up to 3,000 Defence Force reservists to help handle the fallout from fires. 

Mr Morrison said support measures from the national agency would also include mental health support, with the PM noting it was important to include all the health needs of those affected.

Showers have brought some relief to firefighters but the Rural Fire Service warns the rain won't put out the largest and most dangerous blazes before conditions again deteriorate later this week.

The Voyager Point fire in Liverpool continues to burn in bushland west of the Georges River.
The Voyager Point fire in Liverpool continues to burn in bushland west of the Georges River.
NSW Rural Fire Service

At least 60 homes were destroyed in Saturday's blazes, taking to 576 the number of houses razed since New Year's Eve.

The extent of the property damage is still being determined. 

The RFS expects hundreds more will be confirmed lost in coming days, as assessment teams reach the hardest-hit towns. Areas thought to be hardest hit on Saturday included Bundanoon, Wingello, Batlow, Adelong, the Jervis Bay area, Boydtown, Kiah, Wonboyn, Towamba and Cabramurra.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons in Nowra, Sunday, January 5, 2020.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons in Nowra, Sunday, January 5, 2020.
AAP

Severe fire danger set for Friday

Conditions on Friday could again surpass 40 degrees Celsius, prompting severe fire danger.

In the far south, Eden residents were able to return to their homes on Sunday as crews continued to battle the border fire which has scorched 271,000 hectares since igniting west of Victorian town Mallacoota.

Fire danger ratings on Monday will be high or low-moderate across much of the state, with only parts of the state's north experiencing "very high" risk.

The Bureau of Meteorology is expecting some showers to cooler conditions across fire grounds in the state's south.

"Though not a huge amount, that (rain) should slow down the fires," duty forecaster Jake Phillips told AAP on Sunday.

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