(Update 1: Adds details, updates, minor edits throughout)
Sydney, Australia, Oct. 4 (EFE).- Firefighters on Wednesday were working to contain 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 authorities on Wednesday afternoon confirmed that three homes had been destroyed.
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.
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Rob Rogers confirmed that three houses were destroyed by the fire in the Bega Valley, which were previously devastated by the fires of the so-called Black Summer of 2019-2020, in which 33 people died, some 24 million hectares were razed and some 3 billion animals were killed or displaced.
Authorities also reported that a man was injured by a falling tree and admitted to hospital on Wednesday morning.
During a visit to the area, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called the situation, bound to bring back memories of the Black Summer, an “incredibly traumatic experience,” while New South Wales Premier Chris Minns urged citizens to “be prepared for a horror summer” as much of the state has already been experiencing summer conditions in spring.
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 “cooler temperatures have been experienced across the fireground today and rain has fallen.”
“Reduced fire activity has enabled firefighters to strengthen 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 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