Australia faces dust, hail and floods amid continuing fires

Hail storms, dust clouds and flooding are battering Australia, alongside the ongoing bushfires, wreaking havoc on major cities.
Fires have been raging across large parts of the country for weeks, due to the intensely hot weather, but storms have provided temporary relief to those fighting them.

In the Australian capital, Canberra, a violent storm, with hail stones as big as golf balls, came down on the city, damaging buildings, trees and putting holes in car windows.

Image: Hail falling in Canberra

Image: Cars in Canberra have had window’s smashed by the hail. Pic: Peter Swanton
The storm also caused flash flooding, cut off several power supplies and injured two people, according to local officials.
Hail also fell in the southern city of Melbourne – an area that has been choked by the bushfires – with more forecast for the week ahead.

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It will now give organisers of the Australian Open tennis another problem to deal with, after the tournament preparations were marred by the thick smoke from the fires, causing one player to collapse on court.

Brisbane and Gold Coast were also hit by floods, as a result of unusually intense storms in the area.

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Image: Golf ball-sized hail is shown at Parliament House in Canberra

Image: Visitors to the tennis in Melbourne sheltering from the rain
However, in contrast to the wet, stormy weather in the cities, hundreds of kilometres west in the drought-hit towns of Dubbo, Nyngan, Parkes and Broken Hill a 300km-wide (186 miles) dust cloud descended over the area, carried by fast winds of up to 66mph.
The dust clouds were mostly made up of top soil from farms in New South Wales, where the bushfires have been raging.
Speaking to local media, Dubbo’s mayor, Ben Shields said: “It’s part and parcel of this record drought we’ve got at the moment.”

Image: Sustained relief from Australia’s deadly bushfires seems beyond he horizon. Pic: Emily Trevenen
The giant dust cloud is threatening to drift over to large cities, including Sydney, putting an end to the storm-induced reprieve from the bushfires.
Australia’s wildfires hit the country in September last year, and have claimed 28 lives, while destroying more than 2,600 homes.
25.7 million acres of land has been razed as a result of the blazes – an equivalent area that would stretch from the south coast of the UK, all the way up to Hull, taking in half of Wales and much of the midlands.

Image: Rain clouds over Sydney
Despite the fires, Australians are encouraging tourists to return to the country, after it was estimated that the disaster has cost Australia around AUS$1bn (£529 million).
However, the threat from the bushfires is still not over, and fires, though diminished, still continue to burn.
Authorities have warned that the fires will intensify again this week, due to rising temperatures and dry conditions.

Source : Sky News