3 dead, dozens injured as wildfires destroy homes in Australia

Wildfires razing Australia’s drought-stricken east coast have left three people dead, several missing and dozens injured, with over 150 homes destroyed, officials said Saturday.

Around 1,500 firefighters were battling more than 70 fires across Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, with the most intense in the northeast, where flames were fanned by strong winds, Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

A woman who was found unconscious and with serious burns Friday near Glen Innes died in a hospital, he said.

Vivian Chaplain, a 69-year-old mother of two and grandmother of six, was alone in her house in the small community of Wytaliba when it was engulfed in flames, her daughter-in-law Chrystal Harwood said.

“I was the last one to speak to her. She was in an absolute panic. She said: ‘We’re on fire. There’s fire everywhere. I need the boys here now,’” Harwood said of their final phone call.

“Before I even got to tell her to just get out, she’d hung up on me. I couldn’t get back through to her. I tried so many times,” Harwood added. “She was amazing. She was such a strong, loving woman.”

On Friday, Harwood made a desperate plea on social media for someone to come to Chaplain’s rescue.

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