Catastrophic bushfires destroyed some 100 houses in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) over the weekend, with one small town described by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian as "all but wiped out".
Particularly hard hit was the iconic Blue Mountains west of Sydney, reports Xinhua news agency.
Berejiklian toured impacted communities on Monday, taking toll of the damage which followed a weekend of highly adverse firefighting conditions including searing temperatures and strong winds.
NSW Rural Fire Service deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers told reporters that while accurate numbers were yet to be established, an estimated 100 homes had been lost to the fires since Friday.
Southwest of Sydney, the small town of Balmoral was reported to have lost 18 homes, while roughly 90 per cent of its surrounding bushland was turned to ash.
"We've got the devastating news there's not much left in the town of Balmoral," Berejiklian said.
She described the experience of visiting fire affected communities as "sobering" and said that in many cases it would take years to rebuild.
Meanwhile, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) continued the fight to save homes as flames spread throughout the Blue Mountains region with fears that two giant megafires could join.
Rogers said that backburning was being done to rob the fires of fuel, and work will continue throughout Christmas holidays while conditions remain favourable.
"There is a lot of fire in the area and there is a lot more work to do," Rogers said.
"Hopefully, if crews can get these backburns in place, we can start to reduce the threat to the Blue Mountains."
Already this fire season, eight lives have been lost, including those of two firefighters last week, along with over 800 homes and around three million hectares of bushland, constituting a serious ecological disaster.