Sydney, Australia, Oct. 4 (EFE).- Firefighters on Wednesday were working to contain many bushfires in the southeast of Australia as authorities warned of coming heavy rains and flooding.
As of 9 am, 73 bushfires were burning across the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales, the country’s most populated state, with 18 uncontained, the NSW Rural Fire Service said.
Aircraft and firefighters were trying to contain a fire in NSW’s Bega Valley region and confirmed the destruction of some homes, although they did not specify the exact number or location.
The bushfire spread across an area of more than 5,100 hectares and “continues to burn near homes in the Cuttagee, Barragga Bay, Murrah, Bunga and Goalen Head areas,” the NSW Rural Fire Service said.
Due to the weather conditions, firefighters warned that “there is an increased risk of falling trees and pockets of active fire,” although they added that a change in conditions overnight “brought cooler temperatures, increased humidity and some rain, which has resulted in an ease in conditions.”
“Firefighters are working in the area to slow the spread of the fire and establish containment lines,” the service stated, adding that evacuation centers have been set up for residents who want to leave their homes.
In the east of Victoria, the second most populated state, around 17,000 hectares were ablaze and, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, “there are several fires burning at Emergency Warning level” in Gippsland, where some locations have been put under evacuation orders, and also Flinders Island, which belongs to the state of Tasmania.
However, less than 24 hours after fires consumed much of the area, emergency services issued flood warnings due to the arrival of a strong cold front and heavy rain.
While rain and lower temperatures will mean some of the fires have the “potential to be extinguished,” the Australian Bureau of Meteorology also warned of “moderate to heavy rainfall and isolated thunderstorms and damaging winds to central and eastern parts of the state.”
“A Severe Weather Warning for damaging winds and heavy rainfall is current for parts of central and eastern Victoria,” which could cause “major flooding,” the agency said.
It added that these conditions will intensify in the next 24 hours and should finally ease from Thursday.
Australia, which experienced its Black Summer of fires during 2019-2020 in which 33 people died, is expected to face drier than usual weather this year due to El Niño, the warm phase of a climate pattern across the tropical Pacific. EFE