An astonishing photo capturing the catastrophic bushfires ravaging northern New South Wales has left the world stunned.

Zach Firth, who was on a plane flying from the Gold Coast to Melbourne on Friday night, took the photo just north of Coffs Harbour.

Since Firth posted the horror scenes unfolding on the ground to social media, the photo has made international headlines.

Zach Firth was flying from the Gold Coast to Melbourne when he took this photo just north of Coffs Harbour. Photo / Facebook
Zach Firth was flying from the Gold Coast to Melbourne when he took this photo just north of Coffs Harbour. Photo / Facebook

"I've been getting messages flat out for it from here all the way to Mexico," he told news.com.au.

Advertisement

"I'm not sure many people saw it, but my sister and I were shocked at how bad but incredible it looked from above."

Firth had spent a week holidaying in Noosa watching the fires unfold, but didn't know the extent of the blaze until he flew straight over it.

"Media coverage has been good and informative, but until we left [Noosa] there wasn't much information around town up there," Firth said.

READ MORE:
Three people confirmed dead as bushfires tear through homes in NSW and Queensland
'What will I do?' New mum's Australian bushfire hell
Firefighters battle more than 80 bushfires burning across NSW while 50 bushfires rage in Queensland
New Zealand 'blanketed' by smoke and dust from raging NSW and QLD bushfires

Firth also shared a message to the people who continue to battle the fires.

"Stay safe. As much and it's massive loss, you can replace your home and belongings, you can't replace life. Get to a safe refuge."

Media outlets around the world have reacted to the "unprecedented" bushfires currently burning across northern New South Wales and southeast Queensland.

Many readers of the BBC's coverage on the fires blames climate change and the Australian government for the number of fires and their intensity, with one reader writing, "Climate in peril as the world burns."

Advertisement

"Governments are to blame," wrote Suzanne G Kelly on a BBC post.

"They have ignored climate change even though all of the experts including Risk Analysts have been talking and warning about this for over two decades.

"It's now gone beyond blame. Governments have to be held to account and have to act now. They have been warned for decades of this and have done very little.

"It's shameful and heartbreaking."

WEATHER CONDITIONS TO WORSEN

Firefighters worked through the night and into this morning as bushfires continued to rage across northern New South Wales and parts of Queensland.

They were helped by easing conditions, with temperatures cooling, winds dropping and a number of fires that were at previously at emergency level being downgraded.

But that relief is only temporary.

The Caves Rural Fire Service firefighter Anthony Carter shared these photos of the blaze burning at Old Byfield Rd, Cobraball. Photo / News.com.au
The Caves Rural Fire Service firefighter Anthony Carter shared these photos of the blaze burning at Old Byfield Rd, Cobraball. Photo / News.com.au

Worried fire authorities are now turning their attention to preparing for Tuesday, when several ominous weather factors are expected to combine to spread "very high to severe" fire danger across an even greater part of the country.

Temperatures will rise back into the high thirties, winds will pick up again and a high pressure ridge coming in from the west will bring more dry air.

"We are looking at a much wider area of fire danger," Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Abrar Shabren told news.com.au today.

That wider area could extend as far as the Hunter, the Illawarra and greater Sydney.

Thirty-six fires across NSW are still not under control. This morning Rob Rogers, the Rural Fire Service's Deputy Commissioner, said firefighters' odds of containing those existing blazes before Tuesday were "not very good".

Photo taken of the bushfire raging at Port Macquarie. Photo / Twitter
Photo taken of the bushfire raging at Port Macquarie. Photo / Twitter

"What we are really going to be focusing on is what's in the path of those existing fires to ensure we can work out what we need to do to try to protect those communities on that day," he said.

"The conditions that we are facing are going to be really dire conditions. Very hot. Really dry. Strong westerly winds.

"Don't expect that there is going to be a fire truck coming to your home if it is threatened, simply because we do not have enough trucks to be able to cover every single possibility. So people need to think carefully about what they're going to do on Tuesday."

THREE DEAD, TWO VICTIMS IDENTIFIED

Three people have been confirmed dead, with two bodies found near Glen Innes and one near Taree, while five others remain unaccounted for.

Vivian Chaplain, 69, died trying to protect her animals and home at Wytaliba, northwest of Coffs Harbour, and was found with "40-50 per cent burns to her body".

Vivian Chaplain, 69, is reported as having perished after a bushfire swept through on Friday November 8, 2019. Photo / News.com.au
Vivian Chaplain, 69, is reported as having perished after a bushfire swept through on Friday November 8, 2019. Photo / News.com.au

"She was stuck and we couldn't get to her. The loss of her has devastated our family and there was nothing we could do," Chaplain's daughter-in-law Chrystal Harwood told the ABC.

One of Ms Harwood's friends eventually pushed through and found Ms Chaplian unconscious near her shed. He then drove back through dangerous territory to get her to emergency services.

Firefighters performed CPR and first aid for "several hours", according to RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, but it was too late to save her.

The second victim, Julie Fletcher, 63, was discovered at a property in Johns River, north of Taree after packing her car and preparing to escape, according to The Daily Telegraph.

"I got a message from her at 9.30pm on Friday night saying she was putting her things in the car and getting ready to go," Fletcher's friend Diny Khan told the newspaper.

The other victim, a man, was discovered inside a burnt out car yesterday morning at the Kangawalla fire, near Glen Innes in NSW.

More than 40 people have been injured and 150 homes destroyed.

"We cannot rule out the really great concerns that there could be more fatalities as we get through and identify details across these fire grounds," Fitzsimmons said yesterday.