Rain fell across parts of bushfire-ravaged eastern Australia on Thursday and more wet weather was forecast, giving some relief following months of catastrophic blazes fueled by climate change.
The fires, unprecedented for Australia in terms of duration and intensity, have claimed 28 lives and killed an estimated billion animals.
Sustained hot weather and only very rare periods of light rain in the affected areas have deepened the crisis.
So authorities had been looking forward to this week’s rain hoping it would help contain or even extinguish some fires.
In the state of New South Wales, where many of the worst fires have burnt, there were “good falls” on some blazes early Thursday, the local meteorology bureau reported.
In the southern city of Melbourne, thunderstorms late on Wednesday helped to clear bushfire smoke that had choked the city since the start of the week and disrupted the build-up to next week’s Australian Open tennis tournament.
“Storms have improved air quality in most parts of the state,” the Victorian Environment Protection Agency said.
More rain was forecast until the weekend which, if it does occur, would be the most sustained period of wet weather since the crisis began in September last year.
“This will be all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one. Fingers crossed,” the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said early this week in reference to the forecast wet weather.
The fires have destroyed more than 2,000 homes and burnt 10 million hectares (25 million acres) of land – an area larger than South Korea or Portugal.