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Helicopter pilot survives wildfire crash as hundreds flee Australia’s east coast

Australia’s drought-stricken east coast has seen scores of wildfires. Credit: AP

Scores of wildfires continue to rage across vast tracts of Australia’s drought-stricken east coast, forcing hundreds of residents to flee their homes.

Local media reported a pilot survived a helicopter crash near Toowoomba in Australia's Queensland state on Wednesday while trying to fight the fire.

A fire emergency warning has also been issued for the west coast city of Geraldton as windy weather is expected to spread the blaze.

Others in the community have been evacuated repeatedly as fires recede, then return with the most intense fires in the states of New South Wales and Queensland.

Over 200 homes lost in New South Wales and 14 in Queensland since Friday. Tony Wellington, mayor of the Queensland town of Noosa North Shore, said: “It’s bad enough being evacuated once let alone multiple times."

Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corp, he said: “It’s terribly distressing, always, to be evacuated.”

A severe fire danger warning was in place for much southern Queensland, with soaring temperatures and thunderstorms expected.

In New South Wales, more than 50 homes were damaged or destroyed and 13 firefighters were injured overnight by catastrophic wildfires across that subsided on Wednesday.

The Insurance Council of Australia said insurers had received 450 fire damage claims in the disaster areas.

Local resident Julie McMahon said: "It's been a little bit stressful because the fire started just to the east of us and headed east so we've been very fortunate.

"But with the swirling and changing winds we've been having, we've just got fires all around us now."

Hot, dry and windy weather conditions on the east coast Credit: Nasa/AP

At one point on Tuesday, 16 fires raged out of control at emergency level simultaneously across New South Wales, a near record number.

Michael Wassing of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commission warned they were "not out of the woods yet" because of an extended forecast.

State premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was relieved that the destruction on Tuesday had not been worse.

A week-long state of emergency for New South Wales was declared on Monday, with Tuesday forecast to be the most dangerous day.

“I have to confess to being hugely relieved this morning that yesterday our amazing volunteers and emergency service personnel withstood the catastrophic conditions and did manage to save life and property,” she said.

Mr Fitzsimmons said none of the injured firefighters had been seriously hurt.