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In pictures: ‘Catastrophic’ conditions

Photos show the heartbreaking aftermath of devastating bushfires around NSW and Queensland, but the worst could still be yet to come.

For the first time, a catastrophic fire rating has been issued for the city of Sydney and surrounds after days of intense bushfires throughout NSW and Queensland.

A state of emergency has been declared in NSW as high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds combine to create what the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) called “horrendous conditions”.

Smoke and particulate matter in the air has prompted poor air quality forecasts, with the Bureau of Meteorology warning of increased particulate levels in Sydney after an alert issued by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

In Queensland, the Department of Environment and Science’s live air data shows “very poor” air quality for most parts of Brisbane and surrounds.

A comparison of air quality index figures show conditions in some parts of Brisbane and Sydney rival the famously hazy Beijing.

Extra particulate matter in the air can irritate the eyes and airways as well as triggering respiratory conditions.

As the sun came up through smoke haze in Sydney this morning, we began to get the first glimpse of what the day may bring.

In pictures: ‘Catastrophic’ conditions

The sun rises through a smoke haze over Bondi Beach in Sydney on Tuesday. Parts of NSW face catastrophic bushfire danger today, with residents in bushland areas told to leave early rather than wait for fresh fires to start. Picture: AAP Image/Joel CarrettSource:AAP

The sun rises behind the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge as winds blow smoke from bushfires over the CBD in Sydney. Picture: AAP Image/Steven SaphoreSource:AAP

Smoky sunrise at Mona Vale beach. Picture: John GraingerSource:News Corp Australia

Further out of the city, photos show the aftermath of the “unprecedented” fires as communities brace for what’s to come on a day where firefighters aren’t convinced they can contain multiple blazes.

A sign on a fire station in Taree, 350km north of Sydney, warns of ‘catastrophic’ fire conditions for today. Picture: Peter Parks / AFPSource:AFP

The quiet before the storm. Smoke blankets Taree this morning. Picture: Gary RamageSource:News Corp Australia

Wytaliba resident Storm Sparks holds her son Zeke Bacon as she waits to get back to her house at a roadblock near Glen Innes yesterday. Picture: AAP Image/Dan PeledSource:AAP

A joey left to fend for itself after becoming separated from its mother, believed killed in the fires. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

A fire and rescue team inspect the damage yesterday. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Dick Buckham has been fighting bushfires on his property near Aratula for days. Picture: Steve PohlnerSource:News Corp Australia

Lyn and Peter Iverson with their burnt-out office and shed on their property at Koorainghat yesterday. Picture: AAP Image/Darren PatemanSource:AAP

Smoke blankets livestock in a paddock near Aratula. Picture: Steve PohlneSource:News Corp Australia

Those in the impacted areas can stay up to date through our live blog of all the latest news today.

It’s important to have a plan in place to protect your home and, if necessary, escape from the path of the fire.

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