The news from Down Under has been tough to watch these past few weeks.
With bushfires raging across large parts of the country, and a staggering number of animals losing their lives, the country has been brought to its knees.
Fundraising drives to aid relief work and firefighting efforts have raised large sums of money, but what Australia really needed was some assistance from the weather.
Finally, at least for parts of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria (two of the states suffering the worst damage), rain has arrived.
The Guardian reports:
Fire-hit regions of NSW’s Snowy Valley and south coast, and Victoria’s East Gippsland and north-east, received as much as 15mm of desperately needed rain on Wednesday and Thursday, while severe thunderstorms caused flooding in Melbourne…
More rain is forecast for Thursday and Friday, with a total of 10mm in Albury, near the giant cross-border fire burning up into the NSW Snowy Valley, and 10mm in Omeo in East Gippsland on Thursday.
As you can see, Australians were pretty happy to see it chucking down:
There is still a great deal of work ahead, with more than 80 fires in NSW, and 18 in Victoria, continuing to burn, but the rain will help with containment going forward.
The fires may threaten the longterm survival of some iconic Australian animal species, but at least the country’s so-called ‘dinosaur trees’ have been spared.
Thanks to some stellar efforts on the part of a team of NSW firefighters, the iconic Wollemi pines were saved. Here’s the Huffington Post:
“Wollemi National Park is the only place in the world where these trees are found in the wild and, with less than 200 left, we knew we needed to do everything we could to save them,” [New South Wales environment minister Matt] Kean said in a statement Thursday. “The pines, which prior to 1994 were thought to be extinct and whose location is kept secret to prevent contamination, benefited from an unprecedented environmental protection mission.”
The area hosts the only known natural cluster of Wollemi pines, which are colloquially known as “dinosaur trees” because fossil records show they date back as far as 200 million years. The species was thought long extinct until they were discovered by a park ranger about 26 years ago.
The ranger, David Noble, thought the trees looked unusual and took a branch to be identified. Researchers later determined that they were Wollemi pines, which were thought to have died out about 2 million years before, based on fossil records.
The pines are so threatened that their location within the national park is kept a secret, in order to prevent any form of contamination or destruction.
Whilst some of the trees were charred by the flames, they are safe for now, after what Kean described as a “military-like operation”.
A small win, but a win nonetheless.
Here’s hoping that weather conditions play ball in the coming days and weeks, and firefighters can gain the upper hand in their battle against the blazes.
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