Australia receives a bittersweet bushfires reprieve with floods, cyclone

  • February 6, 2020

Donald Graham, 68, looks through the remains of his home which was destroyed by bushfires in Buchan, Victoria, Australia, January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

SYDNEY, Feb 6 (Reuters) – Many Australians were experiencing a bittersweet break from the threat of bushfires on Thursday, with heavy rain deluging many areas and a tropical cyclone forecast to hit the country’s northwest over the weekend.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued severe thunderstorm warnings for the southeast Queensland state, while parts of New South Wales state were inundated during flash floods caused by heavy rainfall that is expected to continue for several days.

“There’s a great feed of easterly warm, moist air feeding into the system and we’re seeing that kick off in the form of rainfall today,” BOM forecaster Mike Funnell told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“We are expecting those larger totals and heavier rainfall to come into the northeast coast of NSW and then sort of track slowly southwards.”

A tropical low off the Kimberley coast in Western Australia state was forecast to develop into a cyclone that could hit land on Saturday.

The cooler and wetter weather has helped douse or slow some of the country’s most damaging and long-running wildfires, which have burned through more than 11.7 million hectares of land since September. The prolonged bushfire season has killed 33 people and an estimated 1 billion native animals. About 2,500 homes have been destroyed.

Officials, however, have warned the threat was not yet over and that there will likely be weeks more of firefighting ahead.

Around 60 fires were still burning across NSW and Victoria, the country’s most populous states, with around half of those classified as uncontained.