Sunday 8 December 2019

Weather warning in Australia as fears lightning strikes could spark fresh bushfires

A CFA Member works on controlled back burns along Putty Road on November 14, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images
A CFA Member works on controlled back burns along Putty Road on November 14, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

Sonali Paul

Australia braced on Friday for strong winds that began to whip up bushfires in two states, potentially adding to a toll of more than 270 homes destroyed and 2.5 million acres (one million hectares) of land ravaged during the past week.

The country's weather bureau warned that winds and lightning strikes increase the threat to communities across two states on the country's east coast, which have been ravaged by fire since last Friday.

"A fresh burst of hot, dry westerly winds will result in severe fire dangers in the Darling Downs and Granite Belt," the Bureau of Meteorology flagged for the border region between the states of Queensland and New South Wales.

READ MORE: Residents told to flee as bushfires rage in Australia

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An air tanker drops fire retardant on the Gospers Mountain fire near Colo Heights, northwest of Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2019. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins/via REUTERS
An air tanker drops fire retardant on the Gospers Mountain fire near Colo Heights, northwest of Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2019. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins/via REUTERS

It added that thunderstorms were possible over the northern part of that region, "bringing the risk of lightning as an ignition source for new fires".

By late afternoon, four emergency warnings had been put in place in New South Wales while further north in Queensland one emergency level fire was registered.

In New South Wales, 259 homes have been destroyed over the past week and 59 bush or grass fires are still burning, but none are rated at the "catastrophic" warning level triggered earlier in the week, the state's Rural Fire Service said.

In Queensland, where 16 homes have been destroyed since Nov. 7, 57 fires were still burning by early evening, down from 61 in mid-afternoon.

Rick Wright inspects the damage next to his house at Nabiac, some 350kms north of Sydney, on November 15, 2019. Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP
Rick Wright inspects the damage next to his house at Nabiac, some 350kms north of Sydney, on November 15, 2019. Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP

The bushfire season has begun earlier than usual, in the southern hemisphere spring, and is expected to be long and brutal this year as a three-year drought has left broad swathes of Australia's east and west more susceptible to fire.

Looking to avert fatigue among firefighters, Western Australia has sent teams out to relieve tired crews on the east coast, and New Zealand has also sent up reinforcements.

"We're doing what we can for our fellow Aussies while still maintaining resources on the home front, which have been much needed in the past few days," the Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services said on social media.

READ MORE: Flood, fire and plague: climate change blamed for disasters from flooded Venice to scorched New South Wales

A fire engine drives past the flames as the fire front approaches homes at Nabiac, some 350kms north of Sydney, on November 15, 2019. Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP
A fire engine drives past the flames as the fire front approaches homes at Nabiac, some 350kms north of Sydney, on November 15, 2019. Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP

Reuters

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