Lightning fears as storms arrive in Australia
THUNDERSTORMS and showers brought some relief for firefighters battling wildfires across Australia’s east coast yesterday.
But they also raised concerns that lightning will spark more fires before dangerous hot and windy conditions return.
Around 2300 firefighters in New South Wales (NSW) were making the most of relatively benign conditions by consolidating containment lines around more than 110 blazes and patrolling for lightning strikes.
“Unfortunately with lightning strikes, it’s not always the next day they pop up,” NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.
“They can smoulder around in trees and in root systems for a couple of days and pop up under drier, hotter conditions, so we are very mindful of that as we head into Friday,” he added.
The unprecedented fire crisis in south-east Australia has killed 25 people and destroyed 2000 homes. It has focused many Australians on how the nation responds to the climate emergency.
The opposition Labor Party has made political capital from the crisis by promising more ambitious policies than the ruling conservative coalition. Opposition climate spokesperson Mark Butler wants the government to allow a debate on climate change when parliament returns in February.
“Hopefully we could fashion a bi-partisan position,” he said.
Labor had pledged to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve zero emissions by 2050 if it had won last year’s elections. The coalition government warned that Labor’s ambitious targets would wreck the economy.