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Weather 'merry-go-round' poses new risks for fire-ravaged Australia

21 January 2020, MVT 20:29
Storm clouds gather over Sydney Harbour on January 20, 2020. - Thunderstorms and giant hail battered parts of Australia's east coast after "apocalyptic" dust storms swept across drought-stricken areas, as extreme weather patterns collided in the bushfire-fatigued country. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP)
21 January 2020, MVT 20:29

A "merry-go-round" of extreme weather was hampering efforts by firefighters in Australia to tackle unprecedented bushfires that have killed at least 29 people and devastated vast swathes of the country.

Parts of the country welcomed heavy rainfall overnight, but authorities warned Tuesday that storms were bringing added complications, and the fire-danger risk could be elevated in the coming days.

"It has been a merry-go-round of weather over the last few days," the Bureau of Meteorology's Kevin Parkin said.

"We have gone from fires and storms and floods, and giant hail -- the size of limes... producing widespread damage -- to fire danger escalating on our doorstep," the senior meteorologist added.

This handout photo taken and received on January 20, 2020 courtesy of Don Arthur shows hail stones outside the Parliament House in Canberra after a storm. - Thunderstorms and giant hail battered parts of Australia's east coast on January 20 after "apocalyptic" dust storms swept across drought-stricken areas, as extreme weather patterns collided in the bushfire-fatigued country. (Photo by Handout / Courtesy of Don Arthur / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / Courtesy of Don Arthur" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS --- NO ARCHIVE ---

The country has suffered a collision of extreme climate events in the past week, with storms, lightning, thunder and hail battering areas in the fire-hit east.The bushfire season has been made worse by climate change, experts say.

Victoria state experienced bursts of intense rain over the past 48 hours that helped to contain long-running blazes in some areas, but landslides, fallen trees and lightning strikes have hampered recovery efforts.

The temperature in Victoria is set to climb into the mid-30 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) range on Wednesday amid fierce winds, prompting extreme weather warnings in the western parts of the state, where authorities say "new start" fires will be difficult to contain."New starts in unprepared communities are the biggest risk," Victoria Country Fire Authority chief officer Steve Warrington told media.

"If communities are not prepared for fire -- whether they live or die, whether their property is saved or not saved -- is very much dependent on decisions people make right now."

A change is expected to bring more rain to the state late Wednesday.

Smoke fills the sky from the back burning in the Nowra region of New South Wales on January 15, 2020. - The confirmed death toll rose to 28 on January 15, as the fires have already destroyed more than 2,000 homes and burnt 10 million hectares (100,000 square kilometres) of land -- an area larger than South Korea or Portugal. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP)

Further north in New South Wales state, heavy rains have also been welcomed in some areas but in others it has left fire-ravaged areas too damp to undertake preventative controlled burns.

Authorities there are bracing for elevated fire danger on Thursday, when temperatures in parts of the state will tip above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

Sydney, Australia | AFP

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