Rain To Bring Relief To Exhausted Firies As Deadly Bushfires Decimate The Country
Rain will bring some relief to fire-ravaged communities as the newly-established National Bushfire Recovery Agency begins working with state authorities and defence efforts.
Fire crews across South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and NSW on Monday will race to build containment lines around dozens of dangerous blazes.
The nationwide bushfire death toll rose to 23 on Sunday, when police confirmed a man had died while helping a friend battling a fire at Batlow, south of Canberra.
Four people remain missing in Victoria.
More than 6.75 million hectares of land - nearly seven times the size of Melbourne or the total mass of the Republic of Ireland - has been scorched nationwide since July.
Millions of wildlife have also died, with some experts estimating nearly half a billion animals have been killed.
Zoos Victoria chief executive Jenny Gray said the full impact was "impossible to determine at this early stage".
Insurance claims are estimated at $375 million since November, with a further $56 million in insured property losses in September and October.
Amid intense criticism for his government's response to bushfires across six states, Prime Minister Scott Morrison established the NBRA on Sunday.
Here's what we know at 6am on Monday:
Hundreds of people are expected to find out their homes have been destroyed in fire-ravaged NSW as showers bring relief to firefighters.
But the Rural Fire Service warns the rain won't put out the largest and most dangerous blazes before conditions worsen later in the week.
At least sixty homes were destroyed in Saturday's blazes, taking to 576 the number lost since New Year's Eve.
Areas thought to be hardest hit on Saturday included Bundanoon, Wingello, Batlow, Adelong, the Jervis Bay area, Boydtown, Kiah, Wonboyn, Towamba and Cabramurra.
Some homes lost were in the Southern Highlands after a flank of a massive 400,000-hectare fireground stretching as far south as Batemans Bay jumped the Shoalhaven River.
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.
"We are comfortable for people to be in their homes at the moment," RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers told the ABC.
He said he was content for the community to be given some time to recover, after a "rough" day and night.
"There is an enormous amount of fire in that part of the world, these are not going to go out for some time," he said.
"We have been dealing with the fires non-stop now for more for five months and I can't see that changing over the next month.
"It makes you think ... just where that will end."
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 late on Sunday.
Some early forecasts for later in the week show warmer conditions, with warm northerly winds expected to cross the west on Thursday and reach the east on Friday.
"It doesn't look as bad as Saturday or New Year's Eve but it's definitely something we'll be watching closely," Phillips said.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has acknowledged NSW is in "unchartered territory" and can't pretend the fires are something experienced before.
"The weather activity we're seeing, the extent and spread of the fires, the speed at which they're going, the way in which they're attacking communities who've never ever seen fire before, is unprecedented," she said on Sunday.
Early on Monday, more than 130 bushfires were burning across NSW, including more than 60 uncontained. Two were subject to a watch-and-act alert.
The cool weather that has brought relief to Victoria will continue on Monday, with showers giving firefighters some respite before the heat returns later in the week.
The fire danger rating forecast for East Gippsland and the north east of Victoria on Monday is low to moderate, with temperatures of under 20C forecast.
The intense fire activity in the southeast and northeast of Victoria, however, is producing hazardous smoke conditions that are likely to worsen on Monday, EPA Victoria said.
Light rain fell across Victoria on Sunday, but authorities urged people to remain vigilant.
"This will be a changing, dynamic situation. We know that the weather will start to warm up and that when we get into Thursday and Friday, potential spike days again," Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said.
More than a million hectares have burnt statewide, 800,000 of them in East Gippsland alone.
Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed four Victorians are still unaccounted for in fire-affected areas.
The Victorian government has announced a dedicated fund to support Victorian bushfires survivors, contributing $2 million.
A convoy of army vehicles with up to 100 reservists is heading for Kangaroo Island as the bushfire recovery gathers pace.
The blaze, which has burnt more than 155,000 hectares inside a 300-kilometre perimeter, is still active in some areas with authorities concerned about deteriorating weather conditions later this week.
But work to assess the full extent of the damage and help locals get back on their feet is underway with the army personnel and supplies to arrive in Penneshaw on Monday.
Work is also underway to restore power supplies with about 600 properties still without electricity.
SA Power Networks says customers may be without services for an extended period while the damage to equipment is determined.
It says only a portion of the affected area has been inspected so far and crews have already identified 12 kilometres of lines brought down.
Some mobile phone and landline services in parts of Kangaroo Island are down, with Telstra advising it is working as quickly as possible to restore connections.
Cooler weather and some rain across the fireground on Saturday and Sunday brought some relief but the Country Fire Service declared a total fire ban for Monday in the wake of a number of flare-ups and the prospect of rising temperatures from Wednesday.
A "watch and act" alert was issued for Stokes Bay near Lathami Conservation Park on the island's north coast early on Monday as a scrub fire threatened the area.
A bushfire advice remains in place for the western half of the island with the eastern edge of the fireground extending from the north to the south coast.