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Australia bushfires: brown rain falls in Melbourne

Temperatures have soared in New South Wales bringing renewed emergency bushfire warnings, while Melbourne has brown rain from dust in the air, causing pools to close and the Yarra River to turn brown.

Despite heavy rain in parts of NSW over the past week, residents were warned the “bad old days” of bushfires could return. By midday, emergency warnings had already been issued for the Adaminaby fire in the Snowy Mountains region and a fire burning near Rocky Hall in the Bega Valley.

The fire danger was classified as extreme in the southern ranges on Thursday, and severe in much of the rest of the state, including the fire-ravaged far south coast.

Temperatures in parts of the south coast, Hunter, mid-north coast and Sydney were expected to pass 40C on Thursday, with 65 fires burning and 19 uncontained.

Air quality in Sydney was forecast as poor on Thursday. Low humidity, winds of up to 55km/h and gusts of up to 100km/h will make the fire situation very volatile, particularly around the massive Gospers Mountain and Green Wattle Creek fires.

“Today will be a return to the bad old days we’ve seen over the course of the last few months,” the NSW emergency services minister, David Elliott, said. “Our appeal, of course, is for people to ensure they remain vigilant.”

In Victoria conditions have eased but Melburnians woke up to brown water covering cars and in pools and waterways.

Melbourne had between 25mm and 33mm of rain overnight, which in many places was orange from dust travelling from the north of the state, resulting in cars being coated in dust and several public pools being closed, including Fitzroy, Queens Park and the Harold Holt swim centre in Glen Iris.

“Our outdoor pool is closed after some runoff from the heavy rain overnight that has affected the water quality,” the Harold Holt centre said on its Facebook page. The indoor pool was still open.

“We’re cleaning it up and will reopen it as quickly as we can, but can’t put a timeframe on it just yet.”

There were still 12 fires burning in Victoria on Thursday morning, the strongest in East Gippsland and the north-east. The Buldah fire in East Gippsland was at watch and act level mid Thursday morning, and the rest on advice level.

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Emergency Management Victoria said the change in the weather had made the Buldah fire more active.

Dry lightning sparked 44 fires on Wednesday but most were quickly dealt with by firefighters.

The rain brought little relief to to bushfire-affected regions; there was barely any east of Bairnsdale.

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has said that the rains could bring new dangers for firefighters, including landslides.

“It can be very dangerous, but it’s much better than a hot northerly wind,” he told Nine’s Today on Thursday.

The Bureau of Meteorology predicts strong winds in eastern elevated areas of the state on Thursday, followed by clear skies on Friday. Temperatures are expected to remain in the low 20s until Monday.

 

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