Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Relief as heavy rain falls over Australian bushfires




Relief as heavy rain falls over Australian bushfires

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The fires have claimed 28 lives and killed an estimated one billion animals. SAEED KHAN/AFP

Relief as heavy rain falls over Australian bushfires

Heavy rain fell across parts of fire-ravaged eastern Australia on Thursday and more wet weather was forecast, giving some relief following months of catastrophic blazes fuelled by climate change.

The fires, unprecedented for Australia in terms of duration and intensity, have claimed 28 lives and killed an estimated one billion animals.

Sustained hot weather and rare periods of light rain in the affected areas have deepened the crisis.

Downpours on Thursday in the state of New South Wales (NSW), where many of the worst fires have burnt, offered hope that dozens of blazes could be brought under control.

“Relief is here for a number of firefighters working across NSW,” the state’s Rural Fire Service said in a social media post accompanying footage of rain falling in a burning forest.

“Although this rain won’t extinguish all fires, it will certainly go a long way towards containment.”

Before the rains, 30 blazes were burning out of control in NSW.

Along the south coast of the state, locals who witnessed towns and forests being destroyed in recent weeks expressed cautious hope.

“We’re thrilled and so relieved to have some dampness in the air because it makes things safe for a little while,” Virginia Connor said near the town of Nowra.

“But we need more, we need lots more.”

Smoke from bushfires choked the southern city of Melbourne from Monday to Wednesday, disrupting the build-up to next week’s Australian Open tennis tournament.

But thunderstorms late on Wednesday cleared the smoke, with the wet weather moving east throughout Thursday towards fires in the southern state of Victoria.

“Storms have improved air quality in most parts of the state,” the Victorian Environment Protection Agency said.

More rain was forecast for Friday and the weekend which, if it does fall, would be the most sustained period of wet weather since the crisis began in September last year.

Still, with January, February and March typically seeing some of the hottest weather in Australia, the bushfire crisis was far from over.

“We still have a long way to go,” said Robyn Duell, a senior climatologist with the Bureau of Meteorology.

“And with higher temperatures, we’ll continue to see an elevated risk of bushfires as we move through summer and early autumn.”

This week’s rains could also make battles harder for firefighters in some cases, by making it harder for trucks to venture deep into forests on muddy tracks, authorities warned.

Flash floods are another concern, with scorched mountains unable to hold the water and potentially sending torrents of muddy ash into waterways.

Australia endures bushfires every year, but they started much earlier than normal last year and have lasted far longer.

Forests and farming land were already extremely dry due to a prolonged drought, providing the foundations for the fire crisis when extreme hot weather hit well before the start of the southern summer.

Last year, Australia experienced its driest and hottest year on record, with its highest average maximum temperature of 41.9C recorded in mid-December.

The fires have destroyed more than 2,000 homes and burnt 10 million hectares of land – an area larger than South Korea or Portugal.

Scientists say the bushfires are the type of extreme disaster the world can expect more of as global warming intensifies.

The past decade was the hottest on record globally, the UN said on Wednesday.

“What’s happening is persistent, not a fluke due to some weather phenomenon,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which provided one of the datasets for the UN report.

“We know that the long-term trends are being driven by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there