Firefighters pray for monsoon

By Greg Ansley

Lack of rain has built hot air mass over interior, feeding huge bushfires

Australia's hopes are now focused on the monsoon finally forming over the north of the continent as more homes were lost to furious fires raging in above-40°C temperatures and powerful hot winds yesterday.

The late arrival of the monsoon allowed superheated air to lodge in the centre and pump extreme temperatures across the eastern states.

"Fortunately, this weekend we're going to finally see some cloud cover and rain getting into northern Australia, and that will eventually flush out the hot air mass that has built up in the interior of the continent," the Bureau of Meteorology's assistant director of weather services, Alasdair Hainsworth, said.

The cool change will not come soon enough after more than two weeks of a heatwave that pushed disastrous fires through Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales, destroying almost 200 properties.

In NSW as temperatures soared into the 40s - reaching 45°C in Sydney - new fires late yesterday threatened homes in Mudgee in the Hunter valley, Bega on the south coast and the western towns of Young, Cessnock and Boorowa.

The fires have also killed tens of thousands of sheep and cattle, razed grasslands and farms, and burned through vast tracts of bush and National Parks.

In Victoria, gale-force winds drove fire through at least five homes in the Gippsland areas of Seaton and Glenmaggie, Dawson and Glenmaggie Pt, east of Melbourne.

The fire began on Thursday at Alberfeddy, expanding rapidly to 25,000ha and triggering evacuation warnings for Glenmaggie, Licola, Coongulla, Seaton, Heyfield, Newry and Glenmaggie Pt.

Yesterday morning fire authorities told people living near Glenmaggie and Licola it was too late to leave and they would have to stay and defend their properties.

By late morning fire authorities said Licola, a small town close to the Alpine National Park, was isolated by flames. The fire was out of control late yesterday, leapfrogging at frightening speed as embers showered ahead of the main front, sparking new fires.

Many have fled. By mid-morning yesterday almost 300 people had registered at an emergency relief centre set up in a sports centre in Sale.

Further east, residents of Coongulla were yesterday morning advised to leave immediately as another front bore rapidly down.

In New South Wales, 18 fires continued to burn across the state, most of them uncontained.

Fears were held for some of the most destructive and dangerous outbreaks as wind and soaring temperatures threatened to again drive them towards properties.

The fire in the Warrumbungle National Park, west of Coonabarabran in the north of the state, broke containment lines yesterday morning after burning through 45,000ha and destroying 51 properties.

Others threatening to again burn through bushland towards towns late yesterday included a major fire in the Shoalhaven area on the coast south of Sydney, and another near Cooma, near the alpine region to the southwest. Both have been burning for more than a week.

Victoria bushfire - AAP

5 houses lost; hundreds of residents evacuated
45,000ha in size
270km east of Melbourne, expected to burn for at least two weeks

- NZ Herald

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