Nearly 100 wildfires raged across Australia's most populous state on Friday, killing one person, destroying dozens of houses and forcing hundreds of evacuations as the nation's annual fire season got off to an unusually early start.
Milder conditions were helping firefighters after Thursday's unseasonably hot temperatures and strong winds fanned flames across the parched landscape and threatened towns surrounding Sydney.
Rural Fire Service spokesman Matt Sun said the number of fires in New South Wales state had dropped from more than 100 overnight to 89, burning across 97,000 hectares (375 square miles). But 25 continued to burn out of control, he said.
Eighty-one homes were destroyed and another 37 damaged, the fire service said, with the number expected to rise as assessment teams and police move deeper into the destruction zone.
Roads and schools in the worst-hit areas were closed and officials were searching the rubble for survivors and victims. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said hundreds of homes may have been destroyed, but the exact number was still not known.