Bush fires, cyclone, torrential rain hit Australia's coasts

In a photo from Feb 2, 2020, a bush fire burns near the town of Bumbalong, south of Canberra.
In a photo from Feb 2, 2020, a bush fire burns near the town of Bumbalong, south of Canberra.PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Severe bush fires burned through parts of Western Australia on Sunday (Feb 9), with other areas of the state dealing with the aftermath of a powerful cyclone, while the country's east coast was facing potential life-threatening flash flooding.

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 (WA) on Sunday, with severe fire danger expected in several districts, according to fire services and the state's Bureau of Meteorology.

"Very hot over the Eucla (in WA) with a fresh and gusty southerly change extending from the west during the morning and afternoon," the Bureau of Meteorology said on its website.

Daytime temperatures in the Eucla district were forecast at up to 42 deg C.

The state's upper parts were battling on Sunday the aftermath of a tropical cyclone Damien that made a landfall on Saturday afternoon, bringing gusty winds of up to 200 kmh.

No immediate damages were reported and the cyclone was expected to weaken as it moved inland, but winds were seen to blow at more than 100 kmh.

On the opposite coast of Australia, Sydney and the state of New South Wales were in danger of potential 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 the falls were welcomed after the state saw its driest year on record in 2019, at 55 per cent below average.

 

The state's Bureau of Meteorology said there was potential for heavy "rainfall and life-threatening flash-flooding," and coast erosion, although little danger of river flooding as water levels have been low due to a persistent drought.

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

The rain helped finally extinguish a huge blaze along the NSW south coast that had been burning for 74 days and scorched  499,621 hectares, an area seven times the size of Singapore.  It was also helping bring a major fire south of the capital Canberra under control.

Locals on the NSW south coast applauded the efforts of emergency services following the news that the massive Currowan Fire has been extinguished, local media reported.

"As of 8pm tonight, the Currowan Fire burning in the Shoalhaven has been set to out," NSW Rural Fire Service announced on Facebook on Saturday night.

A total of 312 homes were destroyed and 173 were damaged by the fire, which started in late November.

"Tremendous work by firefighters and residents saw 1,889 homes saved," the RFS said.