Aus storms wreak damage, bushfires far from over

Claws of climate change: Bushfires rage in Australia, Canberra airport shut

Sydney: Storms have brought heavy rain to the fire-hit regions of eastern Australia, but authorities on Monday warned that the nation’s bushfire crisis was still “far from over”.

On Monday, Victoria state’s Premier Daniel Andrews said recent rain had proved “very helpful” to bushfire-affected communities, reports the BBC.

But he added that storms had also hindered some fire- fighting efforts, and caused a landslide on a highway.

“Ultimately, we need to remain vigilant. It’s 20 January – the fire season is far from over,” Andrews told the media, adding that there was still a “massive fire edge” of more than 1.5 million hectares from blazes which had flared up in the state’s east on New Year’s Eve.

In the worst-hit state of New South Wales (NSW), the number of blazes has more than halved since the first week of January when 150 fires were burning.

There were 69 active fires in the state on Sunday.

But officials told the BBC that there were still “many months to go” in the fire season, particularly in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the southern parts of NSW and Western Australia.

Officials in NSW have warned of a return to hot and windy conditions later this week.

Earlier on Monday, Melbourne and Canberra were hit by heavy storms, with hail as big as golf balls falling in some areas.

Hundreds of emergency calls were made as hail smashed office windows and car windshields in the nation’s capital.

Further severe storms were also forecast for Sydney and Brisbane late on Monday.

Since September, blazes have killed at least 29 people, destroyed over 2,000 homes and burnt through 10 million hectares of land – an area almost the size of England.

The crisis has been exacerbated by record temperatures, a severe drought and climate change.