Wild weather

Bush fires, torrential rain hit Australia's coasts

Trees swaying in Dampier, Western Australia, as Tropical Cyclone Damien made landfall in the state on Saturday, bringing winds of up to 200kmh. PHOTO: REUTERS A group of young men directing traffic through flood waters in Sydney, Australia, yesterday
A group of young men directing traffic through flood waters in Sydney, Australia, yesterday. Sydney and the state of New South Wales were in danger of potentially life-threatening flash flooding, warned the authorities, as rain kept bucketing down for a third day in a row in downpours not seen since 1998.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Trees swaying in Dampier, Western Australia, as Tropical Cyclone Damien made landfall in the state on Saturday, bringing winds of up to 200kmh. PHOTO: REUTERS A group of young men directing traffic through flood waters in Sydney, Australia, yesterday
Trees swaying in Dampier, Western Australia, as Tropical Cyclone Damien made landfall in the state on Saturday, bringing winds of up to 200kmh. PHOTO: REUTERS

Fires ravage Western Australia in aftermath of Cyclone Damien as Sydney is hit by heavy rain, floods

MELBOURNE • Severe bush fires burned through parts of Western Australia yesterday, with other areas of the state dealing with the aftermath of a powerful cyclone, while the country's east coast was facing potentially life-threatening flash flooding, particularly around Sydney.

As of late yesterday, 137,000 people were without power in the Sydney area, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

After months of destructive wildfires that have razed millions of hectares of land, Australia has been hit in recent weeks by wild weather that has alternately brought heavy downpours, hail storms, gusty winds, and hot and dry air.

About a dozen fires were burning in Western Australia yesterday, with severe fire danger expected in several districts, according to fire services and the Bureau of Meteorology.

Daytime temperatures in some of the districts exceeded 40 deg C.

The state's interior was also battling the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Damien that made landfall on Saturday afternoon, bringing gusty winds of up to 200kmh.

No immediate damage was reported and the cyclone weakened as it moved inland, but the Bureau of Meteorology issued severe weather warnings yesterday for winds and heavy rain.

"Although Tropical #CycloneDamien has weakened significantly from the thrashing it gave Karratha and Dampier yesterday, areas around Tom Price and Paraburdoo are receiving significant rainfall and squally conditions," the state's Bureau of Meteorology said on its Twitter account.

On the opposite coast of Australia, Sydney and the state of New South Wales were in danger of potentially life-threatening flash flooding as rain kept bucketing down for a third day in a row in downpours not seen since 1998.

Rainfall in some parts of the state approached half the annual average, but it was welcome after the state saw its driest year on record last year, at 55 per cent below average.

Sydney recorded 160mm of rain yesterday between 9am and 9.30pm (6am and 6.30pm Singapore time), according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

 
 
 

The weather agency said there was potential for heavy "rainfall and life-threatening flash-flooding", and coast erosion.

Yesterday, flood warnings were issued for a number of rivers, particularly to the west of Sydney, and some areas were issued with evacuation orders, including parts of the Sydney coastal suburb of Narrabeen and several suburbs in the city's south-west, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Heavy rain and floods also hit the popular Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney, while rough seas and high winds battered the coast and brought down trees and power lines.

Social media users posted videos of water pouring off hillsides which had been burned in recent fires near Sydney, as well as rivers and creeks that have become torrents.

In Queensland, meteorologists also warned of flash and riverine flooding yesterday, following heavy falls overnight.

An emergency flood alert was issued for residents of Dalby due to a creek overflowing, some 200km west of Brisbane.

The rainfall has helped put out a number of fires in New South Wales that had been burning for weeks. One of the largest and most damaging, the Currowan fire, had been burning for 74 days and scorched 499,621ha of land - about seven times the size of Singapore. It was finally extinguished on Saturday, the fire authorities said.

The fire had swept through large areas of forest and small settlements on the south coast of New South Wales, destroying 312 homes and damaging 173 others, media reported. The rain is also helping to bring a major fire south of the capital Canberra under control.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2020, with the headline 'Bush fires, torrential rain hit Australia's coasts'. Print Edition | Subscribe