Rain and hail throw Australian states devastated by fire, bringing new risks and possible relief

Severe thunderstorms plague some regions of Australia that suffer historic forest fires with heavy rains and hail.

The storms could provide much-needed relief to firefighters fighting some of the worst fires the country has seen in decades. But forecasters say it is still unclear whether rain will fall where it is most needed in the next few days, or if there will be enough to make a difference in areas devastated by fire and affected by drought.

So far there has not been enough rain to put out the fires, and the lightning from the storms has also caused new fires.

The authorities are also concerned that a massive flood may cause sudden powerful floods, since years of drought have left some regions so dry that the rain simply falls from the ground. Massive fires have also burned some of the vegetation that would normally absorb precipitation.

The Victoria State Emergency Service posted several images on Facebook that show the damage caused by the storm, including a 4-meter (13-foot) deep drain that had opened.

Parts of Melbourne were hit with up to 77 millimeters (3 inches) of rain, causing flooding and some damage, the Victoria Meteorology Office said Thursday. CNN affiliate Nine reported news Some neighborhoods were hit by a month of rain in just a few hours, although not in East Gippsland, where some of the worst fires in the state are unleashed.

In New South Wales (NSW) north of Victoria, more than 10,000 homes and businesses lost power on Thursday due to the storm, Nine News reported. But storms have also helped authorities fight fires. The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said on Twitter on Thursday that “although this rain will not extinguish all fires, it will certainly contribute greatly to containment.”

The RFS had said earlier in the week that if the rain forecasts were met, it could be a panacea for firefighters in the region.

“These will be all our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation gifts, all in one” he said Monday on Twitter. “Fingers crossed.”

Haze blankets Melbourne

The fires that have swept Victoria and New South Wales throughout the summer are some of the most powerful and harmful conflagrations Australia has seen in decades.

At least 28 people have died throughout the country, and in the state of New South Wales (NSW) alone, more than 3,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged. State and federal authorities are struggling to contain massive fires, even with the help of firefighters from other countries, including the United States.

All this has been exacerbated by persistent heat and drought caused by climate change. Tens of thousands of people participated in protests across the country last week asking the government to do more to combat the climate crisis.

The situation is already serious. Significant quantities of Australia’s unique flora and fauna have been burned or killed. A group of environmentalists estimated that perhaps one billion animals have been affected throughout the country. Some cities have run out of water. Others have burned down completely.

Major cities like Sydney and Melbourne have been spared the worst damage, but have still been affected.

Both were covered in fog by the fires, although the rain seems to be clearing something. Smoke has already affected the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, and officials canceled some of the practices. Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia was forced to retire after having trouble breathing.

In recent years, extreme temperatures have caused difficult conditions in the first tennis Grand Slam of the calendar year: some competitors collapsed or complained of a heat stroke at the 2018 event.

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