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Heavy rainfall in Australia fills dams, helps contain fires

Residents inspect sea foam brought by waves after heavy rain and storms at Collaroy in Sydney, Australia Monday. Meteorologists said Thursday record rainfall is bringing dams to near capacity, but has helped contain wildfires. Photo by Joel Carrett/EPA-EFE
Residents inspect sea foam brought by waves after heavy rain and storms at Collaroy in Sydney, Australia Monday. Meteorologists said Thursday record rainfall is bringing dams to near capacity, but has helped contain wildfires. Photo by Joel Carrett/EPA-EFE

Feb. 13 (UPI) -- After months of record heat and deadly wildfires in Australia, nearly 28 inches of rain has swamped New South Wales, overwhelming at least one dam, officials said Thursday.

The Nepean Dam, south of Sydney, is at 100 percent capacity because of the torrential rain and is spilling over into the Nepean River. Overall, Sydney's metropolitan dam system is at 75 percent capacity after it sat at 24 percent last week because of past droughts.

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"While we welcome the rain, it's way too soon to see if there's going to be a start of drought recovery or a welcome temporary relief from the drought conditions," Sydney Water's Peter Hadfield said.

The 24 remaining wildfires in New South Wales are now all under control because of the heavy rain. Wildfires have tormented Australia throughout the summer season.

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"After what's been a truly devastating fire season for both firefighters and residents who have suffered through so much this season, all fires are now contained in NSW, which is great news," Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said.

"Not all fires are out, there's still some fire activity in the far south of the state, but all fires are contained so we can really focus on helping people rebuild," Rogers said.

Forecaster David Wilke, with the Bureau of Meteorology, said record-high rainfall in some areas helped in the firefighting effort.

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"Inland of Wollongong saw more than [27.5 inches] of rainfall, while Katoomba has had a high of [21.4 inches] and quite a number of surrounding areas have experienced between [10 to 20 inches], including Oberon, Mt. Boyce and High Range," Wilke said. "To provide some perspective Adelaide receives around [21.6 inches] a year worth of rainfall."

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