The number of NSW homes razed by devastating bushfires has risen to 33, with residents returning to inspect their properties warned about the dangers of deadly asbestos fibres in destroyed buildings.
Most of the homes lost were in the state’s central west where a large blaze blackened 52,000 hectares east of Dunedoo. A church was also reduced to ruins.
The NSW Rural Fire Service says five homes have been damaged across the state.
The Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia says a high proportion of homes built before 1987 contain asbestos products so returning residents should consider using masks and disposable suits.
“Losing your home is tragic enough, but the last thing anyone wants is to add the future suffering of asbestos-related diseases because appropriate safety precautions weren’t taken,” president Barry Robson said in a statement.
There are more than 50 fires still burning across NSW, with about 15 yet to be contained.
Firefighters on Tuesday were hoping to gain the upper hand before temperatures rise again over the coming days.
There are 520 firefighters in the field on Tuesday night.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the extensive loss of livestock has robbed many farmers of their livelihoods. She also praised the courage and commitment of volunteer fire crews.
“Without their efforts, we would be looking at a very different outcome today,” she said during her first question time as premier on Tuesday.
“There is no finer example of selflessness and sacrifice. The entire state is indebted to our emergency services volunteers.”
The Insurance Council of Australia estimates insured losses are at least $20 million with that figure set to rise.
Council chief executive Rob Whelan says an “insurance catastrophe” declaration has seen the industry escalate its response.
An historic homestead on the $20 million Tongy Station was among at least 23 homes razed by the massive Sir Ivan fire in the central west with the village of Uarbry losing at least five houses.
The Sir Ivan fire was so “extraordinarily destructive” at its height on Sunday that it created its own thunderstorm.
NSW faced its worst day in the history of fire danger ratings on Sunday with an average temperature of 44C and strong winds.
Two firefighters were hospitalised; one with a severely lacerated hand and the other with burns to his hands, arm and face.
The federal and NSW governments on Tuesday announced funds would be made available to fire-affected communities across the state under the joint Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.