Wildfires have ripped through Australia’s most populated state, claiming three lives, destroying at least 150 homes and forcing more than 1,300 people to flee, according to officials.
Over 35 people have been injured, including 16 of the 1,500 firefighters battling fires across New South Wales.
Vivian Chaplain, 69, one of the three killed as more than 81 blazes continued to scar the area Saturday afternoon, spoke to her daughter-in-law as flames surrounded her home, according to Sky News.
“I was the last one to speak to her. She was in absolute panic,” Chrystal Harwood said. “‘We’re on fire! There’s fire everywhere!'”
“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 said. “She was amazing. She was such a strong, loving woman.”
Harwood used social media to make an urgent plea for a rescue on Friday.
“Viv is alone can someone help, anyone, please …,” Harwood posted. “‘The RFS can’t get to her they are trying…the road down is a tunnel of fire.”
The Rural Fire Service said Chaplain died in the hospital after authorities found her unconscious with severe burns near Glen Innes, according to The Guardian.
“The reports were initially burns to 40 to 50 percent of her body,” RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told abc.net.au.
Firefighters found another body Saturday morning in a burned car near Glenn Innes — a victim of the same fire that killed Chaplain.
New South Wales police said another unidentified body was found in a burned-out building at Johns River. An autopsy will determine whether the victim is the 63-year-old woman who owns the house.
Only one fire remained at the emergency-warning level in New South Wales on Saturday afternoon. On Friday, 17 fires were given that status.
But Fitzsimmons warned people to brace themselves for more trouble, with hot and windy conditions expected to return Tuesday, making firefighting difficult.
“We are expecting widespread, severe, extreme fire danger ratings,” Fitzsimmons said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned Australians to expect more bad news from the fire zones.
“The devastating and horrific fires that we have seen, particularly in New South Wales but also in Queensland, have been absolutely chilling,” Morrison said.
The Australian wildfire season started early this year after an unusually warm and dry winter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report