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Australia’s rainy respite from fires ending: Weather experts

MELBOURNE: A recent respite for Australian firefighters that brought rains and cooler weather is set to end, meteorologists warned yesterday, with hot conditions forecast for later this week raising a risk that blazes may start spreading again.

Australia experiences regular bush fires over summer, but this season's fires began early and have claimed 33 lives in the past four months, killed millions of animals and charred an area nearly the size of Greece.

More than a week of solid rain in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland - the three states most affected by the fires - has more than halved the number of blazes, but above-average temperatures are set to return by the weekend.

"Unfortunately, the reprieve may be short-lived with a blast of heat likely late this week in some areas," the New South Wales Bureau of Meteorology said.

As of yesterday, 59 bush and grass fires were burning throughout New South Wales, 28 of which were not yet contained.

"More than 1,300 firefighters are using more favourable conditions to slow the spread of fires and strengthen containment lines, ahead of forecast increasing temperatures later in the week," the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said.

Temperatures in Melbourne, where the Australian Open tennis tournament is in its second week, are forecast to reach 41 deg C on Friday. - REUTERS

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