Picture: Catarina Sousa/Pexels
Picture: Catarina Sousa/Pexels

Rain brings some relief, potential concerns for fire-ravaged Australia

By Subel Bhandari Time of article published Jan 16, 2020

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Canberra - A burst of rain on Thursday brought much-needed relief to eastern Australia amid the bush fire crisis, but authorities also warned of potential dangerous conditions caused by the storms to come.

Severe thunderstorm warnings have been issued for regions including bush fire-hit areas in New South Wales (NSW), where more than 80 blazes are still burning. 

"The rains on the way!" The Bureau of Meteorology said on its Twitter account. "Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are current for eastern NSW with storms expected to last into the night."

The Blue Mountains suburb of Faulconbridge recorded NSW's highest rainfall in the past 24 hours with 45 millimetres. The weather bureau forecast that up to 100 millimetres of rain would fall in some areas.

The widespread rain across areas where bush fires have ravaged large swathes of land was celebrated by many, with the word "rain" beginning to trend on Twitter. 

The rain is also a much welcome respite for the firefighters who have been battling bush fires for more than three months in many areas.

"Relief is here for a number of firefighters working across NSW. Although this rain won't extinguish all fires, it will certainly go a long way towards containment," NSW's Rural Fire Service said on Twitter. 

Authorities also warned about possible landslips, flash flooding, and contaminated ash water flowing into river systems. 

"While the rain is welcomed, heavy rainfall and storms in fire-affected areas can lead to dangerous conditions such as a higher risk of flash flooding, falling trees and landslips," Paul Bailey, the state's emergency services assistant commissioner, told reporters.

The wet weather is likely to continue until Monday across eastern Australia.

In celebration, one NSW farmer Nick Andrews shaved off his beard, which he had vowed to grow until an inch of rain fell on his sheep station near Broken Hill in outback Australia. 

It did not for the past 21 months, but overnight 36 millimetres of shower fell on his property, Australian broadcaster ABC reported.

"It was just torrential downpour. Flooded the place," he told ABC. 

In Victoria, "isolated thundery showers in eastern and mountain" areas have been forecast for the next two days, said the weather bureau, but removed "Severe Thunderstorm Warning" for the state. 

Heavy rain, flash flooding and thunderstorms swept across Melbourne and into the bush fire-hit eastern part of the state overnight.

The fire regions saw just 5 to 10 millimetres of rain, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, which was not enough to suppress blazes.

The rainstorm did help clear the hazardous bush fire smoke blanketing Melbourne city since Tuesday. 

Some 40 bush fires were burning in Victoria on Thursday evening, but none of them at the highest "emergency" alert level.

The bush fires across Australia have already burned more than 11.8 million hectares of land since September. At least 28 people have died and more than 1 billion animals killed.

Last week, the Bureau of Meteorology said Australia had its hottest and driest year on record in 2019 and that the link between the bush fires and record low rainfall and increased temperatures was clear.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of fish may have died after rain washed sediments and ash from bush fires into the Macleay River on the NSW mid-north coast, Australian news agency AAP reported. 

"It's devastating. It's unprecedented," Bellbrook resident Arthur Bain told AAP on Thursday.

Rainfall is adding ash from the bush fires and other sediments to catchments in the region which can cause rapid drops of oxygen levels in the water, NSW department of primary industries said in a statement on Thursday.

dpa

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