Prayers and Christmas wishes have been answered in Australia as rain has lashed parts of the country, helping firefighters’ efforts in dousing the flames that have raged across the land since September 2019, killing at least 29 people nationwide and approximately 1 billion animals, as well as destroying buildings and homes, and wiping out swathes of bushland (15 million acres).
Although good rainfalls were only predicted to come in March, the heavens have opened and rain is sweeping across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland… bringing water to areas that have been suffering the worst drought in years.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has issued a severe thunderstorm warning with heavy rainfall, damaging winds and large hailstones predicted to hit parts of New South Wales (although not the Greater Sydney area). A similar severe thunderstorm warning for Victoria, has been reduced in the past hour.
Despite bringing welcome relief to firefighters, the BOM has warned that in fire-ravaged areas, the rainfall may cause a run-off of ash, soil, fallen trees and rocks that have piled up during the fires. There’s also an increased chance that more damaged trees may fall… and that the downpour could trigger landslides and flash flooding, according to the ABC. The Australian government is also installing booms around Warragamba Dam to prevent debris, silt and ash from contaminating the water.
Since late Wednesday, emergency services in Victoria have already dealt with 600 incidents of falling trees, flash floods and other damage. Locals in the state have been warned of more damage from storms, starting Monday.
The heavy downfall north west of Sydney is being referred to as a “rain bomb” – although sporadic, it’s heavy and expected to bring over 100mm of rain in the area over four days.
The current rain – while hugely celebrated – will probably not be enough to refill the dams or break the droughts. Nor will it help put out all the fires BUT it’s bringing hope in desperate times, lifting spirits and will certainly lighten the load for firefighters who have been fighting the blazes for months.
The NSW State Fire Department said: “Although this rain won’t extinguish all fires, it will certainly go a long way toward containment.”
However there is more good news from the BOM – announcing on Thursday that there’s a 50% chance that the east of Australia will receive its average rainfall from 1 March to 30 May. The BOM said though that further rains will still be needed to end the drought which has brought farmers in the region to their knees over the past three years.
At last count, there were still 85 fires in NSW of which 55 have been contained; and 18 fires in Victoria.
On Thursday morning, AirVisual’s pollution ranking still included Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra amongst the top 50 most polluted major cities… however by 09h00 South African time, only Sydney remained on that list (at number 46). In fact Johannesburg’s pollution ranking (74) is currently worse than Melbourne’s (84)… although winds are expected to bring more smoke to Melbourne this weekend, according to Reuters. (Update at 09h45 SA time: Sydney had risen to 33, Canberra to 40 with Melbourne remaining at 74. Joburg has risen to 64.)
The conservative government in Australia, which has been criticised by Australians for failing to acknowledge climate change during these bushfires, has “softened” its stance and acknowledged this week that “changes are real and the country needs a strategy of ‘adaptation’ and ‘resilience'”, reports Reuters.
Australians and their friends around the world – from all different denominations – had held local and global events to pray for rain over the past couple of weeks (see video at bottom of page of Hare Krishnas in Melbourne where rain fell while they prayed).
VIDEOS – Australia welcomes rains
It's finally raining in Australia 😭❤🙏🏽
"Downpours have already helped to extinguish 32 bushfires..number of blazes fell from 120 to 88..It means the end may be in sight for exhausted firefighters who have battled deadly fires for more than 3 months."
— StanceGrounded (@_SJPeace_) January 15, 2020
🌧HOW'S THE RAIN WHERE YOU ARE? 🌧Check out this video from Steph from Green Valley Farm in Tingha."These dams were empty before Christmas, we were carting water and feeding stock for months. We had 65mm just before Christmas and then this – 75mm."Haven't seen water like that for some time ..hope it gives others hope that it can rain and will rain again …❤❤"📷: Steph Stewart
Posted by ABC New England North West on Wednesday, January 15, 2020
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
Watch these little girls welcome their firefighter dad home after he returned from battling Australia’s ongoing bushfires pic.twitter.com/ntMk32bc7T
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) January 16, 2020
WATCH Australians dancing in the rain at a Hare Krishna prayer meeting in Melbourne
Harinaam in #Melbourne Rains!
Thousands in Australia with sign boards in hand praying for rains, As the #Iskcon Harinam party hit the street, It started raining, rained for hours and hours nonstop, and drenched every one.
“yajnad bhavati parjanyo”
Rains are produced by yajna pic.twitter.com/E7nug5NP1P
— Iskcon,Inc. (@IskconInc) January 16, 2020