UK & World News
Australia Fires: Man Dies As Homes Destroyed
Around 100 bushfires continue to burn across the state of New South Wales in Australia with the crisis claiming its first life.
A man died from a heart attack on the Central Coast north of Sydney whilst trying to protect his home from the flames.
Dozens of houses have been destroyed with the authorities suggesting the eventual number of properties burned down could be in "the hundreds".
Barry O'Farrell, New South Wales State Premier, said: "Regrettably, overnight we had what we hoped wouldn't occur which is a loss of life up there at Lake Munmorah.
"A 63-year-old man who apparently collapsed fighting a fire to defend his property, taken to Wyong Hospital and unfortunately couldn't be resuscitated. That's the worst that anyone wants to happen."
Firefighters were assisted by milder conditions on Friday after unseasonably hot temperatures and strong winds fanned flames across the parched landscape threatening areas to the North, South and West of Sydney, Rural Fire Service officials said.
Around 30 fires are still understood to be burning out of control.
Two firefighters were taken to hospital with injuries, and one had undergone surgery, Mr O'Farrell said. He did not give details of their injuries.
Hundreds of residents spent Thursday night in dozens of evacuation centres in the Blue Mountains, a popular tourist region to Sydney's west, and elsewhere in New South Wales.
Most were unaware of the fate of their homes.
One homeowner from Springwood, west of Sydney told reporters: "You do your best and it just kind of gets to the stage where you just realise that you can't do any more and you go.
"You take what you can and go. In my case, it was the dog."
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, himself a volunteer firefighter, has been visiting Winmalee, one of the areas affected.
He said he wanted to "convey our nation's sympathy to all those who are suffering, to all those who have lost homes".
"And in particular, to acknowledge there has already been a loss of life and we fear more," he said.
"Australia is a country which is prone to natural disaster but, every time it strikes, it hurts and we grieve for all of those who are now hurting."
Temperatures west of Sydney made conditions easier for fire crews, reaching around 23C (73F) - around 10C (18F) cooler than on Thursday.
However, high temperatures and strong winds are forecast to return on Sunday and Monday.
Wildfires are common throughout Australia in the warmer months.
In February 2009, wildfires killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes in Victoria state.