Heavy rains have begun to fall in parts of Australia this week, helping to weaken the flames and put out some of the fires that have been spreading across the country since September.
Sky News reported that some areas of Melbourne, which were among some of the areas most affected by the fires, saw up to 66ml of rain in just a few hours on Wednesday night. The rains are expected to continue for at least a few days, but meteorologists are unsure about which way the storm will proceed, so it is hard for them to predict exactly how much rain the area will see in the coming days.
The hit & miss nature of #thunderstorms means it's difficult to forecast exactly where the heaviest rain will be—some parts of #bushfire & #drought affected eastern Australia could see 50–100 mm over the next few days; while others may see very little https://t.co/T7MYuIdxkO pic.twitter.com/zgmiBmqcIG
— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) January 15, 2020
The much-needed rain did not come without consequences though. Many areas were flooded, and residents lost power because of downed lines. Flights were also canceled in parts of the region until the storms pass. Since the area has recently been hit by a drought and wildfires, much of the wilderness and foliage have been burned, leaving the rain with no place to go and adding to the potential of flooding.
Prof Stuart Khan, an environmental engineer and water expert who works at the University of New South Wales, told the Guardian that the conditions seen in the country over the past few months has made the land even more vulnerable to flooding, erosion, and even landslides, because all of that ash sitting on a catchment will eventually become unstable.
If this @BOM_NSW rainfall forecast comes to fruition then this will be all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one. Fingers crossed. #NSWRFS #nswfires pic.twitter.com/R9VfD0bqu2
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 12, 2020
Unfortunately, while the rains have given emergency crews a break, it is not expected to put out all of the fires, which experts fear could be burning for the next two months at least.
The bushfires in Australia have burned over 25.5 million acres of land, making these fires the largest in the world. Since they began in September, these fires have scorched more than ten times the amount of land lost to fires in the Amazon this year. To put this into perspective, this is an area equal to the size of South Korea.
Sadly, over a billion animals are expected to have perished in the wildfires, with many others facing grave circumstances as their habitat is being destroyed. There are more dangers to the animals than just directly burning in the fires. There are numerous other potential hazards that are being caused by the fires, such as the loss of habitat, which is pushing animals out into dangerous situations where they are vulnerable to predators. In some cases, they are being pushed out into the human world, which can also be dangerous for wild animals. Smoke plumes and intense weather caused by the fires are also making trouble for the wildlife inhabitants of New South Wales.
Authorities in Australia have urged tens of thousands of people to evacuate from their homes and move to safer areas. The region of Victoria has declared a state of disaster in areas that are home to roughly 100,000 people. 28 people are expected to have lost their lives in the bushfires, with many others unaccounted for.