SYDNEY: Many Australians were experiencing a bittersweet break from the threat of bushfires on Thursday, with flooding rains deluging some parts of the eastern states and a tropical cyclone forecast to hit the country’s northwest over the weekend.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) issued severe thunderstorm warnings for the southeast Queensland state and a flood alert for more than 20 areas in New South Wales (NSW) after the start of heavy rainfall that is expected to continue for several days.
Cricket Australia said a bushfire fundraising match which was set to be played in Sydney on Saturday had to be rescheduled for Melbourne on Sunday because of the rain.
Warm, moist air feeding in from the east was bringing the rain, BOM forecaster Mike Funnell told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
In pictures: Scenes from ongoing Australia bushfires
“We are expecting those larger totals and heavier rainfall to come into the northeast coast of NSW and then sort of track slowly southwards.”
A tropical low off the Kimberley coast in Western Australia state was forecast to develop into a category three cyclone that could hit the Pilbara region, Australia’s iron ore producing heartland, on Saturday.
The wet weather has helped douse or slow some of the country’s most damaging and long-running wildfires, which have burned through more than 11.7 million hectares (2.8 million acres) of land since September. The prolonged bushfire season has killed 33 people and an estimated 1 billion native animals. More than 2,500 homes have been destroyed.
Officials, however, have warned the threat was not yet over and that there will likely be weeks more of firefighting ahead.
Around 60 fires were still burning across NSW and Victoria, the country’s most populous states, with around half of those classified as uncontained.