Rain extinguishes Australian wildfire and causes flooding

Torrential rain lashing Australia on Sunday extinguished a major wildfire and caused widespread flash flooding. (AP)
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Updated 09 February 2020

Rain extinguishes Australian wildfire and causes flooding

  • Hopes heavy rain would move inland from the coast and drench more major fires that have burned for months
  • Australian wildfires that have killed at least 33 and destroyed more than 3,000 homes

CANBERRA, Australia: Torrential rain lashing Australia’s east coast on Sunday has extinguished a major wildfire and caused widespread flash flooding.
Rain put out the Currowan Fire south of Sydney late Saturday after it destroyed 312 homes and razed 500,000 hectares over 74 days, the New South Wales state Rural Fire Service said.
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said he hoped the heavy rain would move inland from the coast and drench more major fires that have burned for months.
Fitzsimmons bid farewell at a Sydney Airport hotel on Sunday to 21 American and 21 Canadian firefighters who were heading home after their deployment battling Australian blazes.
A severe weather warning was in place on Sunday along most of the New South Wales coast and parts of Queensland to the north, with heavy rain, damaging winds, abnormally high tides and damaging surf forecast.
The State Emergency Service reported six flood rescues overnight near Grafton, north of Sydney. They were mostly people who became stranded while attempting to drive through floodwater.
Some east coast towns have received in recent days their heaviest rainfall in five decades.
On Australia’s northwest coast, Tropical Cyclone Damien made landfall late Saturday as a category 3 storm and weakened as it moved inland.
Several buildings had lost roofs, but authorities had yet to assess the full extent of the damage on Sunday.
Australian wildfires that have killed at least 33 and destroyed more than 3,000 homes in an unprecedented fire season that began late in a record-dry 2019.


UK vaccine frontrunner could be available in first half of 2021

Updated 27 min 12 sec ago

UK vaccine frontrunner could be available in first half of 2021

  • Human trials of the vaccine will expand to hundreds more people in the “coming weeks.”

LONDON: A leading British scientist has said a Covid-19 vaccine could be rolled out across the country as early as the first half of next year.

Professor Robin Shattock leads the team working on Imperial College London’s vaccine, one of the UK’s two most promising research programs. He told Sky News: “We anticipate if everything goes really well, that we'll get an answer as to whether it works by early next year.

“Assuming that the funding is there to purchase that vaccine, we could have that vaccine rolled out across the UK in the first half of next year.”

Shattock also warned that there was “no certainty” that any of the vaccines currently being developed would work, but said the risk of that is “very, very low.”

Imperial College London is now conducting human trials of their vaccine, with 15 volunteers having received it so far. Shattock said this will be ramped up in the “coming weeks” to include another 200 to 300 patients.

“I think we're very lucky in the UK that we have two very strong candidates, the one from Imperial, the one from Oxford, and so we’re pretty well placed, but there's still not a certainty that either of those two will work,” he said.

Oxford University is also developing a vaccination for Covid-19, in partnership with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

While Shattock said he hopes Imperial College London’s vaccine will be available for the whole of the UK in the first half of next year, it is unclear how long it would take for it to be available outside of the country.

The UK, European Union and the US have all invested huge sums into vaccine development, and struck deals with pharmaceutical companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars each to ensure first-in-line access to successful vaccinations.

However, international organizations such as the UN, International Red Crescent and Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders have raised concerns that the world’s poorest countries will be unable to access vaccinations and effective Covid-19 treatments due to rich countries outspending them.