Aussie storms douse fires, unleash floods

Above: A social media post showing a koala licking rainwater off a road near Moree, New South Wales, last week. PHOTO: REUTERS Right: Torrential rain left the Movie World car park at Oxenford in Queensland underwater early yesterday morning. Victoria
Torrential rain left the Movie World car park at Oxenford in Queensland underwater early yesterday morning. Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland - three of the states in Australia most affected by drought and bush fires - are now dealing with rain in several areas.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM: MICKEYLOU15
Above: A social media post showing a koala licking rainwater off a road near Moree, New South Wales, last week. PHOTO: REUTERS Right: Torrential rain left the Movie World car park at Oxenford in Queensland underwater early yesterday morning. Victoria
A social media post showing a koala licking rainwater off a road near Moree, New South Wales, last week. PHOTO: REUTERS

Three fire-hit states welcome downpours but bush fire danger far from over, officials caution

MELBOURNE • Parts of Australia's east coast were hit by severe storms yesterday, dousing some of the bush fires that have devastated the region for months but causing road closures and flash flooding.

Fears of smoke from the fires disrupting the Australian Open receded in Melbourne, where the main tennis tournament is due to start tomorrow.

Despite the heavy rain, the authorities were still battling nearly 100 blazes - part of the bush fires that have killed dozens of people since last September, destroyed more than 2,500 homes and scorched an area nearly one-third the size of Germany.

Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, three of the states most hit by drought and bush fires, are now dealing with rain bucketing down in several areas.

Major highways were closed in Queensland yesterday, with the state getting some of the heaviest rain Australia has seen for months, while power was cut in parts of New South Wales after a stormy night.

"Heavy, intense rainfall has eased, but showers and thunderstorms still possible through the weekend," the Bureau of Meteorology in Queensland said on Twitter yesterday. "Take care on the roads - if it's flooded, forget it."

Parts of Queensland's south saw triple the monthly rainfall overnight. No major damage has been reported, although some residential areas were flooded and many of the state's parks and tourist attractions were closed.

New South Wales fire services welcomed the rain, which they said on Twitter would help to control the 75 fires burning in the state, of which 25 are yet to be contained.

But they also said some firegrounds have not seen any rain yet.

 
 

More benign storms were forecast for Victoria over the weekend, which was hit last week by severe storms and unhealthy smoke from the bush fires.

Skies were clear in Melbourne, however, for the final round of qualifying for the Australian Open, the year's first Grand Slam event, and Victoria's Environmental Protection rated the air quality as "good", after an earlier forecast of unhealthy air for the weekend.

There were still more than a dozen fires burning in Victoria yesterday, with firefighters battling to contain a big blaze in the state's mountain region, which is 15 times the size of Manhattan.

Victoria's emergency service also issued an evacuation warning due to a bush fire yesterday for French Island, the state's largest coastal island with a small population of just over 100 people.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 19, 2020, with the headline 'Aussie storms douse fires, unleash floods'. Print Edition | Subscribe