Australian firefighters used the cool weather of today to try to strengthen containment lines around almost 200 wildfires burning in the country's southeast, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison prepared to meet with insurance and bank executives to discuss the crisis.
Fires have razed more than eight million hectares (19.8 million acres) of land across Australia, an area nearly the size of Austria, killing 25 people and destroying or damaging thousands of houses.
The Insurance Council of Australia today increased its estimate for damages claims from the fires to more than A$700 million (RM1.99 billion), with claims expected to jump further when more fire-hit areas are accessible.
Thousands of people have been left homeless, while many in rural towns have spent days without electricity, telecommunications and, in some cases, drinking water. Military-coordinated rescue and support efforts were ongoing.
Morrison, who has been criticised for his handling of the crisis, yesterday pledged A$2 billion (RM5.68 billion) to a newly created National Bushfire Recovery Agency, a commitment that could threaten his election promise to deliver the first budget surplus in more than a decade this financial year.
"There's going to be a very significant economic impact, but... we want to get money out into these communities as fast as possible," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (below) told the Australian Broadcasting Corp ahead of planned meetings between Morrison and financial bosses.
On the ground, firefighters were working to get as much control over the huge blazes as possible before forecast high temperatures and winds return later in the week, threatening to ignite a fresh wave of fires.
"They are trying to secure fire lines where they can to try and minimise where these fires will burn again when conditions do warm up," Rob Rogers, NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Deputy Commissioner told reporters in a morning briefing. "We have no prospect of containment on all those fires, but we can use this time."
Following are some highlights of what is happening in the Australian bushfires crisis: