Hours after they were threatened by fire, several Australian towns are preparing for floods.
Bushfires have been burning in Victoria’s Gippsland region and New South Wales’ South Coast this week – both areas were hit hard by Australia’s Black Summer bushfires four years ago.
Rain is now offering some reprieve, but it has also triggered flood warnings.
The country has reeled from disaster to disaster in recent years, as it feels the effects of climate change.
“This is one of the reasons why my government… [is] determined to act on climate change,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said when speaking about the situation on Wednesday.
Dozens of fires have been burning across Australia as it enters what authorities expect to be its most dangerous fire season in years.
In Gippsland – a rural region in south-east Victoria – hundreds of firefighters have spent several days battling two serious blazes which have triggered evacuations and claimed at least one home.
And New South Wales (NSW) authorities have also confirmed several homes were destroyed by fire in the Bega Valley on Tuesday.
Across both states, the fires have burned through approximately 25,000 hectares (250sq km) of land – an area roughly five times the size of Manhattan Island.
But a large cold front is bringing heavy rainfall to the south-east of Australia on Wednesday, prompting a warning from authorities to prepare for potential flash and riverine flooding.
Towns in the Gippsland region which were threatened by the flames are now at risk of being cut off by flood waters.
“Do not attempt to drive through those flash flood waters, it may be the last decision you make,” Victoria’s State Emergency Services chief officer Tim Wiebusch warned residents on Tuesday.
In NSW, the fire grounds have received some rain, but the primary flood risk is inland. Elsewhere in the state, extreme fire danger continues – with hot, dry, and windy conditions triggering total fire bans in some areas.
Australia has been plagued by a series of disasters in recent years – severe drought and historic bushfires, successive years of record-breaking floods, and six mass bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef.
A future full of worsening disasters is likely unless urgent action is taken to halt climate change, the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns.