World

Downpours bring relief to fire-ravaged Australia

NOWRA, AUSTRALIA: Heavy rain fell across parts of fire-ravaged eastern Australia yesterday and more wet weather was forecast, giving some relief following months of catastrophic blazes fuelled by climate change.

The fires, unprecedented for Australia in terms of duration and intensity, have claimed 28 lives and killed an estimated billion animals.

Downpours yesterday in the state of New South Wales (NSW), where many of the worst fires occurred, offered hope that dozens of blazes could be brought under control.

"Relief is here for a number of firefighters working across NSW," the state's Rural Fire Service said in a social media post accompanying footage of rain falling in a burning forest.

"Although this rain won't extinguish all fires, it will certainly go a long way towards containment."

Before the rains, there were 30 blazes burning out of control in New South Wales, AFP reported. Smoke from bush fires choked the southern city of Melbourne from Monday to Wednesday, disrupting the build-up to next week's Australian Open.

But thunderstorms late on Wednesday cleared the smoke, with the wet weather moving east throughout yesterday towards fires in the southern state of Victoria.

More rain was forecast for tomorrow and the weekend.

Australia's tourism body estimated the country's bush fire crisis has so far cost the industry almost A$1 billion (S$930 million) and called for urgent help from the government to lure back visitors, Reuters reported.

Environment