A firefighter watches the progress of bushfires in New South Wales, Australia. Picture: AAP IMAGE/SHANE CHALKER/VIA REUTERS
A firefighter watches the progress of bushfires in New South Wales, Australia. Picture: AAP IMAGE/SHANE CHALKER/VIA REUTERS

Melbourne/Sydney — Australian officials used a respite on Monday from fierce wildfires that have killed 25 people across the country's southeast to race to reopen blocked roads and evacuate people who have been trapped for days.

A second day of light rain and cool winds brought some relief from heatwave-fuelled blazes that ripped through two states over the weekend, but officials warned the hazardous weather conditions were expected to return later in the week.

Police on Monday confirmed the death of a 71-year-old man on the south coast of New South Wales state who was reported missing on December 31, bringing the national toll to 25.

More than eight-million hectares of land have so far been destroyed in the current fire season, nearly the size of Austria.

“No-one can be complacent. We've got big fire danger coming our way towards the end of this week with hot weather,” Victoria premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Monday afternoon.

Authorities redoubled their efforts to provide supplies and repatriate thousands of people who have been trapped by fire lines in coastal towns for several days.

“What we are focusing on here is the human cost and the rebuilding cost for people's lives,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra as he announced funding of A$2bn over two years to the newly formed National Bushfire Recovery Agency.

Morrison said nearly 4,000 cattle and sheep have been killed as a result of the fires.

Dean Linton, a resident of Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains, used the break from an immediate threat to his town to visit his wife and four children who had evacuated to Sydney. He also used the 870km round trip to pick up a firefighting pump and generator to help him protect the family home.

“There's a lot of fuel in that national park; it would only take one lightning strike,” Linton told Reuters.

The bushfire season started earlier than normal this year following a three-year drought that has left much of the country's bushland tinder-dry and vulnerable to fires.

Reuters

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