SA town fears return of fire

Bushfire over Flinders Ranges

A forecast wind change could blow a bushfire burning in South Australia’s southern Flinders Ranges back towards the rural township of Wilmington, the Country Fire Service says.

The weather bureau has issued a severe fire weather warning for the area for tomorrow with temperatures to reach the mid 30s and strong wind gusts expected.

More than 200 firefighters and five water bombers are battling the blaze, which has scorched about 8,000 hectares of land.

The bushfire moved towards Wilmington yesterday, prompting the Country Fire Service (CFS) to declare it a threat to homes and lives.

That danger reduced as firefighters battled throughout the night, but the fire continues to burn uncontrolled.

CFS state coordinator Brenton Eden says aerial water bombers were grounded yesterday because of smoke but have today dumped water onto the fire’s north-eastern front.

He says a wind change forecast for around sunrise tomorrow could hamper attempts to control it.

“This fire will continue to grow in all directions overnight until the north-westerly winds tomorrow. They will be associated with we believe 5 to 10 millimetres of rain,” he said.

“However, with all good news there’s a sting – we are facing 11 fire bans tomorrow across the state. All [of those are] severe, including the Flinders Ranges.

“So whilst we have a window of opportunity that goes through until sunrise tomorrow, we have a period of high danger tomorrow between sunrise and the arrival of any moisture over the fire ground.

“It is not likely that this fire will come under control for several days, many days. This will be very much a wind-driven fire.”

He says large fire breaks have been established around Wilmington.

“We have increased the level of asset protection in Wilmington with the arrival of a Metropolitan Fire Service strike team to protect that community,” he said.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Simon Timcke says firefighters face a difficult task.

“With those freshening and becoming gusty northerly winds, probably with some fairly dry air as well, it’s the sort of weather conditions that would cause the firefighters some concern,” he said.

But he says some relief may be on the way.

“At some stage during Saturday afternoon, I would expect to see some showers develop, possibly even the chance of a thunderstorm up there and with a bit of luck some rainfall totals significant enough to help them in their efforts in fighting that fire.”

Stock lost

Hundreds of sheep and other stock have been killed, along with native wildlife.

Local grazier Brenton Stevens managed to save his cattle by moving them to a bare paddock but says much of his land was burnt.

“We have two acres left, so we expect the cattle – they’re fat now – but whether they’ll keep fat for the next six months on two acres, one doesn’t know,” he said.

Other farmers were not as lucky, with hundreds of sheep being put down.

Firefighters from around the state have been called in as reinforcements and several roads in the area remain closed.

Total Fire Bans have been declared in eleven of the state’s districts for tomorrow.

Aerial of Flinders Range fire in SA
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Storms hit Sydney as tornado strikes NSW lake

With more than 300 lightning strikes, bucketing rain and reports of fishing boats missing in a tornado, last night was the epitome of wild weather. Sydney’s northern beaches were the hardest hit by a thunderstorm that moved over the city’s east and northern suburbs late yesterday. Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jake Phillips said Avalon received 36mm in just half an hour. Advertisement: Story continues below “That was far and away the highest rainfall figures we saw,” Mr Phillips said. Weatherzone meteorologist Doug Fenton said there were about 328 lightning strikes in the Sydney Basin overnight. “There was certainly a lot, particularly in the northern suburbs. “For Sydney, 328 is quite a lot.” Other northern suburbs were drenched, including 28mm at Mona Vale and 27mm at Hornsby, in what Mr Phillips described as a fairly typical Sydney summer thunderstorm. Less typical, however, was a storm that hit Lake Burrendong in the state’s central west yesterday afternoon. Police said heavy hail hit about 5pm, when many fishermen were out on the water. Several boats were unaccounted for for hours as police, State Emergency Service volunteers and a helicopter searched for them. They were all found by about 8.15pm and no injuries were reported to police. Initial media reports last night suggested the lake had been hit by a tornado, but Mr Phillips said that had not yet been confirmed by meteorologists. The wild weather may have been caused by a “micro burst” from a type of thunderstorm called a supercell. “It’s when you get a particularly severe thunderstorm and you get a burst of cold air that comes out of the thunderstorm and rushes towards the ground. “The storm that was over that way, from what we could see on the radar, it looked like a supercell thunderstorm. “That’s a particularly severe type and often with supercells, not always but often, we see things like large hail and a lot of wind damage as well as heavy rain.”

Stephanie Gardiner

 


2011 Hottest year on record for Perth Australia

Audience submitted image

         The Bureau of Meteorology says 2011 was the warmest year on record in Perth and the south west.
Temperatures from 2009 to 2011 are also in the top four hottest years since records began.
The bureau’s Neil Bennett says a hot first three months of last year contributed towards breaking 2010’s record average temperature of 25.3 degrees.
“Certainly, during the year we saw some pretty warm temperatures right the way through and in fact when we looked at the whole year as a total and looked at the mean’s daily maximums, Perth recorded 25.7 in 2011,” he said.
Mr Bennett says a number of months within 2011 were among the warmest ever recorded.
“March was the warmest March on record, April the fifth warmest, August the second warmest and October the third warmest, so when you’ve got all of those coming together it’s not surprising that we broke the record,” he said.

Firecrews battle blazes across four states as weather cools

Arsonist targets southern vales

A water bomber tackles a fire in South Australia

MORE than 100 firefighters are battling a major bushfire near Port Augusta, while blazes rage in three other states.

Crews are battling separate blazes in Queensland, Victoria and Perth as the nation recovers from a blistering heatwave.

The South Australian Country Fire Service (CFS) said a blaze was burning on two fronts in an area about 25km south of Port Augusta in the Flinders Ranges.

“This fire is continuing to expand to the northwest towards Spear Creek and the southwest towards Tattiwa Spring,” the CFS said.

Some roads have been closed and motorists have been asked to avoid the area.

A small number of campers at a local caravan park have also been asked to leave.

Firefighters battle Vic national park blaze

An isolated bushfire is sending smoke across a large section of the vast Grampians National Park in Victoria’s southwest.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) says the fire in the far southwest corner of the popular tourist attraction is not threatening property and has grown to more than 165ha in size. It was sparked by lightning strikes earlier yesterday.

DSE spokesman Lee Miezis said 20 firefighters would continue bringing the blaze under control today.

“It is in a very remote area, so it is not threatening any property or townships at this stage,” he said.

“But there’s a strong southerly wind and smoke covering a fairly wide area, from Ararat, right along the major Western Highway.”

Firefighters will be assisted by 17 light tankers, one large tanker and 12 aircraft.

Mr Miezis said today’s cooler weather would also help firefighters

He said the national park and its neighbouring townships and tourist attractions remained open and people in these areas should monitor any changes in conditions.

Gas bottle sparks island blaze

In Queensland, flames up to 10m high have been reported as a bushfire on Moreton Island burns though scrubland toward small township of Bulwer.

The fire, which began yesterday when a gas bottle exploded at Cravens Creek campground, is now threatening the northern part of the island.

The Department of Environment and Resource Management said about 160ha of bush had been burned.

A Queensland Fire and Rescue spokesman said the National Parks and Wildlife Service was in charge of the fire and despite a successful backburn overnight, the fire once again flared up this morning.

Tangalooma Island Resort director Trevor Hassard volunteered all night and said it was unlikely the fire would be put out for another couple of weeks.

Firefighter injured at Perth Airport

Firefighters have worked through the night managing a blaze that broke out yesterday near Perth Airport and left one FESA officer with minor burns.

The bushfire ripped through about 65ha in eastern Cloverdale yesterday afternoon.

One firefighter was taken to hospital with burns as the bushfire that threatened homes and forced evacuations in Cloverdale was brought under control last night.

Although the blaze is no longer out of control, it is continuing to smoulder on the western side of the Tonkin Highway from Hardey Road to Glassford Road, FESA said.


Croc fears rise as Daly River awaits floodwaters

Daly River community prepares for flooding.

The local shire of the Daly River region in the Northern Territory says crocodiles will pose the biggest problem with expected flooding of the river system.

Residents are preparing for flooding as the water from heavy rain in the Katherine region makes its way into the river system.

The deluge washed away the Territory’s major rail and road routes to Darwin two days ago.

The shire’s Andrew McTaggert says the river is expected to rise quickly within the next 24 hours.

“At this stage the crocs are the biggest problem that will arise out of this,” he predicted.

“The last floods we had this year, I think they caught three or four crocs just in and around the community here where the kids go and have a swim.

“So that’s the biggest thing. They take all the dogs and sooner or later they’ll take a child.”

Mr McTaggert says the river will rise quickly when it arrives and could reach 13.5 metres.

“People in low-lying houses will be evacuated,” he added.

The Daly River Mango Farm’s Gary Higgins says he has been preparing since yesterday.

“We’ve got accommodation and a licensed bistro so all of that [has been] packed up and we lift that to a height of 14.5 to 15 metres.

There are also concerns the raging river could damage construction works on a local causeway and the Daly River bridge.


Fire on Russian nuclear sub ‘totally extinguished’

Nuclear-powered submarine Yekaterinburg

Russia says it has doused a raging blaze aboard a nuclear submarine after nearly a full day and night, by partially submerging the vessel after battling the flames with water from helicopters and tug boats.

Officials said there was no radiation leak and crew inside the submarine were monitoring the stricken vessel’s nuclear reactors, which had been shut down.

At least nine people were injured fighting the flames which witnesses quoted by local media said rose 10 metres above the Yekaterinburg submarine at the navy ship yard in the Murmansk region of northern Russia.

“The fire on the submarine has been totally extinguished,” Emergencies minister Sergei Shoigu told officials leading the firefighting effort, more than 20 hours after the blaze began.

His remarks were reported by Interfax news agency.

After hours of fighting the fire emergency officials decided to partially submerge the 18,200-tonne Yekaterinburg submarine at the Roslyakovo dock, one of the main dockyards of Russia’s Northern Fleet, 1,500 kilometres north of Moscow.

Russia’s nuclear submarine fleet, once the pride of the Soviet Union’s mighty armed forces, has been involved in a host of disasters including the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000 with the loss of all 118 people on board.

Official statements were vague, but the blaze is believed to have started when wooden scaffolding caught fire during welding repairs to the the 167-metre Yekaterinburg submarine, which had been hoisted into a dry dock.

President Dmitry Medvedev ordered an investigation into the incident.

The submarine, which launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from the Barents Sea at a firing range as recently as July, can carry 16 ballistic missiles, each with four warheads, and a crew of 140.

A Defence Ministry spokesman said all its weapons had been removed before repairs started and its nuclear reactors were shut down.

“Radiation indicators are within normal levels. There is no threat to the local population,” the Emergencies Ministry said in a statement.

Russian submarines’ reactors are built to withstand enormous shocks and high temperatures.

Part of the crew was onboard the submarine to check carbon dioxide levels, the temperature and to ensure the safety of the nuclear reactors.

“Part of the crew remains on board and is carrying out regular monitoring every 30 minutes of the situation in the  nuclear submarine and around it,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Yekaterinburg is a Delta IV class submarine. Russia’s Northern Fleet was established under the Soviet Union to watch over European waters and was armed during the Cold War against threats from NATO.

The navy was criticised by Russia’s political leaders following the Kursk disaster for failing to give accurate information about the true nature of the disaster.

Reuters


Man dies from bird flu in China

A man in southern China has died of bird flu a week after being admitted to hospital with a fever, state media reports.

The 39-year-old bus driver from Guangdong province contracted the first human case of bird flu in China in 18 months.

The man from Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, developed symptoms last week and was admitted to a hospital on Christmas Day because of severe pneumonia, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The report added the man died in the early afternoon on Saturday (local time), after having tested positive for the H5N1 virus.

Guangdong’s official newspaper, the Southern Daily, said 120 people who had contact with the man had developed no signs of sickness.

About 10 days ago Hong Kong culled 17,000 chickens at a wholesale poultry market and suspended all imports of live chickens from mainland China for 21 days after a dead chicken there tested positive for the H5N1 virus.

The virus is normally found in birds but can jump to people who do not have immunity to it.

Researchers worry it could mutate into a form that would spread around the world and kill millions.

In recent years, the virus has become active in various parts of the world, mainly in east Asia, during the cooler months.

Authorities in China are worried about the spread of infectious diseases around this time when millions of Chinese travel in crowded buses and trains across the country to go home to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

The current strain of H5N1 is highly pathogenic, kills most species of birds and up to 60 per cent of the people it infects.

Since 2003, it has infected 573 people around the world, killing 336.

The virus also kills migratory birds but species that manage to survive can carry and disperse the virus to new, uninfected locations.

It transmits less easily between people but there have been clusters of infections in people in Indonesia and Thailand in the past.

Reuters/AFP