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Rains douse Australia fires, but produce severe flooding

By
Don Jacobson
Residents in Sydney, Australia, inspect sea waves on Monday after heavy rains fell over thee weekend, helping crews extinguish wildfires and producing severe flooding. Photo by Joel Carrett/EPA-EFE
Residents in Sydney, Australia, inspect sea waves on Monday after heavy rains fell over thee weekend, helping crews extinguish wildfires and producing severe flooding. Photo by Joel Carrett/EPA-EFE

Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Firefighters in Australia received more help from the weather over the weekend extinguishing wildfires in populous New South Wales, and forecasters say they will get more before this week is over.

Officials said four straight days of rain doused the state's largest remaining fire, the Gospers Mountain "megablaze" northwest of Sydney, which torched more than 1.2 million acres after it began last fall.

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The rains put out more than 30 fires between Friday and Monday, the NWS Rural Fire Service said, adding that all remaining fires in New South Wales should be extinguished by the end of this week.

More than 15 inches of rain have fallen in Sydney since Friday, the most since 1990. But while the storms have helped fight the wildfires, they have also produced severe floods across Australia's largest city.

Officials said they have rescued hundreds from vehicles on flooded roads and received a record number of calls for help.

Calling the rainfall "one of the worst storms on the network in 20 years," utility Ausgrid said outages affected more than 200,000 homes by Monday. The scale of the damage means it could be several days, it said, before all electricity is restored.

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More than two dozen people have died so far in connection to Australia's historic wildfire season, while about 15 million acres of land and 2,400 homes have burned. Officials have estimated the fires have also killed about a billion animals.

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