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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Samuel Osborne

'Heaviest rain in years' strikes Australia after months of catastrophic wildfires

Heavy rain is pouring on parts of Australia which have been ravaged by wildfires over the last few months, offering a brief respite from the fire season.

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued flood alerts for more than 20 areas in New South Wales (NSW), with rainfall expected to last several days.

The deluge, described by Sky News' weather chief Tom Saunders as "the heaviest rain in years" has helped to douse some of the country's most damaging blazes.

“There’s going to be a huge amount of rain,” he said. “It’s enough to extinguish some of the larger bushfires but not hard enough to fill up the dams, considering how dry the catchment has been.”

More than 11.7 million hectares of land have been burned since September, in fires which have killed 33 people and an estimated 1 billion animals, and destroyed more than 2,500 homes.

However, officials have warned the wildfire threat is not yet over.

On Thursday, 42 fires continued to burn and 17 were yet to be contained, the NSW Rural Fire Service said.

"Today we were over the moon to see rain arrive across many parts of New South Wales, with decent fall in the State's north," the agency added.

It said 1,200 firefighters were working to combat the blazes.

Australia suspended its parliament on Tuesday to honour the victims of the bushfire crisis.

Scott Morrison, the prime minister, said: “This is the black summer of 2019-20 that has proven our national character and resolve.

“These fires are yet to end and danger is still before us in many, many places, but today we gather together to mourn, honour, reflect and begin to learn from the black summer that continues.”

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside of Parliament House as he spoke, criticising his government's policies on carbon emissions and the country's reliance on fossil fuels as the world's largest exporter of coal and liquid national gas.

On Monday, more than 270 Australian scientists signed an open letter demanding their government take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

An international study ranked Australia as among the least active G20 nations in tackling the climate emergency.

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