Fires contained in hard-hit New South Wales, but now floods threaten

Sydney was inundated after days of torrential rain, a spectacular reversal from months of drought that caused massive bushfires. (AFP)
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Updated 13 February 2020

Fires contained in hard-hit New South Wales, but now floods threaten

  • Heavy rains that helped extinguish the blazes that have raged since September are causing flash floods in parts of the state
  • Bushfires scorched more than 10 million hectares in the country’s east and south

SYDNEY: All the blazes in Australia’s hard-hit state of New South Wales have been brought under control, firefighters said on Thursday, signaling the end of a “black summer” that claimed 33 lives nationwide.
But heavy rains that helped extinguish the blazes that have raged along the east coast since September are causing flash floods in parts of the state, posing new problems for some residents.
“Not all fires are out, there’s still some fire activity in the far south of the state but all fires are contained so we can really focus on helping people rebuild,” the state’s fire service deputy commissioner Rob Rogers said on Twitter.
“It is very good news,” a Rural Fire Service spokesman said.
Bushfires scorched more than 10 million hectares in the country’s east and south, killing at least 33 people and an estimated one billion animals, while destroying more than 2,500 homes.
The crisis cloaked major cities including Sydney in smoke for weeks on end, saw towns cut off and prompted the deployment of the military to rescue stranded citizens.
Beleaguered volunteer firefighters have fought the blazes day-in-day-out in what has been described as Australia’s “black summer.”
The fires were exacerbated by prolonged drought and worsened by climate change in the country’s hottest and driest year on record.
Days of recent rainfall have extinguished the largest fires and brought those that remain under control.
In the Australian Capital Territory around Canberra firefighters are still trying to bring one blaze under control, but it was not said to be threatening.
Attention has now turned to tackling flash flooding expected in the coming days following the heaviest rains in 30 years.
On Thursday dams near Sydney overflowed after days of torrential rain, a spectacular reversal from months of drought.
The Nepean dam was just a third full less than a week ago, but on Thursday video footage showing water cascading over the dam wall.
Hundreds of people have been rescued from floodwaters in recent days.
Wild weather is set to ramp up again from Friday, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting ex-Tropical Cyclone Uesi would bring “damaging to destructive winds” and heavy rainfall to remote tourist destination Lord Howe Island.
Senior meteorologist Grace Legge said storms were also expected for Queensland and New South Wales — with areas still recovering from bushfires likely to be hit again.
“Any showers and thunderstorms that do develop are falling on already saturated catchments, so there is a risk with severe thunderstorms of flash flooding,” she said.


Minneapolis braces for more riots, arson following police killing of Afro-American George Floyd

Updated 30 May 2020

Minneapolis braces for more riots, arson following police killing of Afro-American George Floyd

CHICAGO: Minneapolis exploded into riots and arson this week after an African-American suspected of handling counterfeit money was killed on Monday during his arrest by two city police officers.

Videos on social media showed an officer placing his knee on George Floyd’s neck as he was handcuffed and being restrained on the street by the kerb. The 46-year-old said that he could not breathe, but police insisted that Floyd was “resisting arrest” and had to be forcibly restrained.

The officer who was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck was arrested on Friday and charged with murder.

Floyd was pronounced dead at the scene and his family immediately called for an independent probe.

His family turned to civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who said the family’s first concern was to seek an autopsy independent of the police because of a lack of trust in law enforcement and to give their deceased family member a proper funeral.

“Is it two justice systems in America?” Crump said as he addressed the media. “One for black America and one for white America? We can’t have that. We have to have equal justice for the United States of America and that’s what I think the protesters are crying out for.”

Protests spread across the country and turned violent as arson destroyed property, including the police station where the police officers were assigned.

President Donald Trump denounced the rioters as “thugs” and warned that he might send in the military “to take control.” 

Minneapolis Police handed the investigation into Floyd’s death to the FBI and US Justice Department on Thursday night. Officials from the FBI and US Justice Department promised that the probe would be “robust and meticulous.”

The media’s role in the protests came sharply into focus when, early on Friday, CNN’s Omar Jimenez was arrested along with his TV crew.

CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota, who looked on as her colleague was being arrested, told viewers: “If you are just tuning in you are watching our correspondent Omar Jimenez being arrested by state police in Minnesota. We are not sure why our correspondent is being arrested.”