Some relief for Australia as rains sweep bushfire-ravaged east coast
Storms rolled into Melbourne and Sydney. A second weather system is forecast to hit Victoria, South Australia and western NSW from Monday, bringing more much-needed rain to the regions and triggering supercell storms.
Heavy rain, thunderstorms and flash floods swept across parts of Australia's east coast on Thursday, giving some relief and bringing hope that some of the devastating bushfires razing the country will be extinguished - or at least slowed.
Australia is battling its worst bushfire reason on record that claimed 29 lives, destroyed over 2,500 homes and razed bushland across an area the size of Bulgaria. An estimated billion animals have been killed.
Storms rolled into Melbourne on Wednesday afternoon and slashed Sydney on Thursday morning, after a low pressure system swept across the east.
A second weather system is forecast to hit Victoria, South Australia and western NSW from Monday, bringing more much-needed rain to the regions and triggering supercell storms.
Officials have warned that short, intense thunderstorms could lead to flash flooding, while lightning brought the risk of new fires being ignited.
"We're expecting unsettled weather for the next four or five days or so at least," Jake Phillips, a senior meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.
"The rainfall in some areas might be useful and in other spots it might only be a millimetre or two."
"There are risks associated with it, so it's not always necessarily a great thing, particularly if we get the rainfall really quickly. What we really need is soaking, steady rain."
Downpours have already helped to extinguish 32 bushfires in New South Wales as the number of blazes fell from 120 to 88 on Thursday morning. About19 fires were alight in Victoria, according to fire authorities.
The wet weather brought some respite from the smoke haze that has plagued Australia's major cities for weeks and has been tracked by NASA circumnavigating the globe. Still, Canberra and Melbourne ranked among the top 30 most polluted major cities worldwide.
Fire and weather officials have also warned the current cool and wet weather change will only be a temporary relief, with the hot weather forecast to return in coming weeks.
Australia's conservative government has softened its rhetoric on climate change amid the crisis, acknowledging this week that changes are real and the country needs a strategy of "adaptation" and "resilience".