Aussie storms to bring both relief - and new risks

MELBOURNE • Severe storms are expected to bring some relief in the coming days from the huge bush fires scorching Australia, but the heavy downpours could also carry the risk of landslides and water pollution, officials said yesterday.

The shift to more humid and wet weather will likely help control some of the 114 blazes burning across New South Wales and Victoria states and potentially even extinguish some, but will also bring new dangers.

Mr Kevin Parkyn, a senior meteorologist with Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, detailed to reporters a forecast of damaging winds, heavy rainfall and large hailstones for the city of Melbourne and its surrounding areas.

"Thunderstorms are a bit of a double-edged sword. While they can bring some much-needed rain, (the rain) can also come down in very fast, high quantities," he said.

Heavy downpours can pollute freshwater supplies as debris is swept into reservoirs. They can also cause flash flooding, leaving burnt-out areas of bushland particularly vulnerable to landslips and tree felling.

Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, bore the brunt yesterday of smoke haze that satellites operated by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) scientists have tracked circumnavigating the globe.

Flights were cancelled as the heavy smoke pall shut down a runway at the city's airport.

Bush fires are common during Australia's summer months, but this fire season started unusually early, with blazes often moving quickly and unpredictably, leaving swathes of the drought-stricken land scorched.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2020, with the headline 'Aussie storms to bring both relief - and new risks'. Print Edition | Subscribe