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Day of extreme danger arrives

A massive evacuation from NSW, being dubbed one of the biggest in Australia’s history is ongoing, as motorists are being dragged out of NSW’s south coast before extreme fire conditions kick in today.

Tens of thousands of people have fled from the state’s fire-ravaged region and, elsewhere in the state, there’s a 10am deadline for people to leave Kosciuszko National Park.

Extreme fire danger is predicted for six fire districts in NSW’s southeast and the ACT, while severe conditions are forecast for Sydney, the Hunter and the central ranges.

Temperatures are forecast to reach 45C inland and up to 44C on the coast. Sydney’s outskirts could hit 46C. A gusty southerly is forecast to reach the far south coast from midafternoon, reaching Sydney about midnight. Despite at least 449 homes being lost since Tuesday, the Rural Fire Service’s key priority will not be property. Success on Saturday will be measured on whether everyone stays alive, with 17 lives already lost this bushfire season. “We will be very happy and call it a success if there are no lives lost,” RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said on Friday.

“This state of readiness for NSW can’t be matched anywhere.

“We are as ready as we can be.” Five ‘no go’ zones have been established across broad sections of the south coast, parts of the alpine region and on fire-threatened parts of Sydney’s fringes.

Mr Rogers urged people there to head to cities, large towns, already-burnt areas or beaches if they hadn’t already left.

“We need people to be safe,” he said.

More than 130 fires were burning across NSW on Friday night including 40 in the state’s southeast.

ENTIRE TOWN “UNDEFENDABLE”

Officials have declared an entire NSW town “undefendable” and told its 1300 inhabitants to leave as bushfires fears ramp up with the mercury set to soar.

The entire town of Batlow, arguably regarded as the apple capital of Australia, has been told to evacuate before catastrophic fires bear down on the historic town.

Dangerous conditions are forecast for the town with the Dunns Road fire expected to hit Batlow tomorrow afternoon.

Last night thousands fled a 14,000km evacuation zone – from Bateman’s Bay to the Victorian border as officials sent 250,000 text messages telling people to get out before first light.

A statewide total fire ban will remain in place on Saturday, as will the state of emergency – which is the third declared in as many months. Eight people, including a firefighter, have died since Monday. Another man, seriously burnt in a bushfire in November, died in hospital on Sunday. Those whose towns burned down on Tuesday have been able to return to their properties to survey the damage.

Raelene Wilson returned to Conjola Park to find her home and her son’s home still standing.

But at least 89 homes in the tiny hamlet were lost and some people escaped with just the clothes on their backs.

“(The guilt is) that we survived and we’ve got our house and they’ve got nothing,” Ms Wilson told AAP.

Ms Berejiklian acknowledged the mental trauma communities were experiencing and said extra staff were working at evacuation centres to assist with counselling. “I know that some people have experienced things unseen things they never thought they would in their lifetime,” she told reporters on Friday. “During this difficult time and in the coming days, the focus of the government will be to ensure that we have enough welfare support to support people.” Disaster relief payments are available for some residents.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who faced some angry victims while visiting bushfire-ravaged Cobargo, defended his government’s response to the crisis. Police said they are investigating “all aspects” of the south coast fires, including the eight deaths and the cause of the blazes. Mr Rogers previously said the majority of fires were sparked by lightning.

In Sydney, the Royal National Park will be closed from Saturday until further notice, as will Heathcote National Park and other western Sydney parklands

megan.palin@news.com.au | @Megan_Palin

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