Australia fires: Victoria braces for severe storms

  • January 19, 2020

Heavy rains have doused many of the country’s bushfires. Photo: Reuters

Forecasters have warned of severe storms in Australia’s fire-hit state of Victoria, which could lead to flooding.

Recent heavy rains have dampened many of the country’s bushfires, but also led to power cuts and road closures.

The fires, which began in September, have claimed at least 28 lives, destroyed thousands of homes and scorched millions of acres of land.

As wet weather helped to ease the crisis, the government announced a major package to aid tourism recovery.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would channel some A$76m ($52m; £40m) from the national bushfire recovery fund into the industry.

He described the package on Sunday as an “urgent injection” of funds for affected businesses, and said tourism in the country was facing “its biggest challenge in living memory”.

The Australian Tourism Industry Council told Reuters news agency that damages to the industry were approaching A$1 billion. The Australian Tourism Export Council told the Australian Financial Review that the losses may go above A$4.5 billion by the end of the year.

What’s the forecast?

The Bureau of Meteorology in Victoria issued severe thunderstorm warnings for parts of the state on Sunday, saying damaging winds and heavy rainfall were expected.

It said storms and widespread rainfall were forecast in the state for the next three days.

One forecaster from the bureau said the state was “about to see it’s wettest two-day period in many, many months”, according to ABC News.

At least 14 fires were still burning in Victoria as of Sunday.

In NSW, where 69 fires were burning on Sunday, forecasters said widespread heavy rainfall in the north of the state would ease, as it withdrew flood warnings for the Bellinger and Orara rivers.

Officials in Queensland urged people to “exercise caution” on Gold Coast beaches, where “large water movement and significant debris” were expected after heavy rainfall on Saturday. (BBC)