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No rain until MAY: Forecasters warn that there will be no significant rainfall for six months as experts warn of worst bushfire season ever

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 11/12/2019 Charlie Coë For Daily Mail Australia

a herd of sheep standing on top of a dry grass field: 'NSW, Queensland and Victoria are looking very lean for rain and below average rainfall through summer and heading into next winter,' state's agricultural minister Adam Marshall said © Provided by Daily Mail 'NSW, Queensland and Victoria are looking very lean for rain and below average rainfall through summer and heading into next winter,' state's agricultural minister Adam Marshall said Australia is set to swelter for another six months before the first significant rainfall, forecasters have warned.

The Bureau of Meteorology made the stark warning for New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria at a meeting of state and federal ministers in the regional New South Wales town of Moree on Tuesday.

NSW is battling through one of its worst ever droughts, but the state's agricultural minister Adam Marshall said drought-breaking levels of rain were not expected until April or May 2020 at the earliest. 

'NSW, Queensland and Victoria are looking very lean for rain and below average rainfall through summer and heading into next winter,' Mr Marshall told The Australian.

'The outlook is nothing for NSW anywhere near drought-breaking until April-May next year.' 

Talks at the meeting on Tuesday, which were partly based on a BoM briefing, also involved discussions about drought assistance in some of Australia's worst-affected areas. 

'We have agreed to make sure we work together to streamline process (of giving aid to drought-impacted areas) - if there's duplication that can be taken away,' Federal Drought and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud said. 

The warning comes as Sydney residents were told to brace themselves for 'unprecedented losses' as the bushfires on the city's doorstep breach its suburbs later this summer, according to an ex-fire chief.

Greg Mullins, who was Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner from 2003 to 2017, said Sydney will likely to experience devastation greater than 1994, when hundreds of suburban homes were lost.

'The worst is to come because it's going to get hotter and drier and there's no significant rain in the outlooks,' Mr Mullins told AAP.

'We've got massive fires that are too big to put out without rain. They are going to get bigger and they are going to come into Sydney suburbs, the South Coast, the Central Coast.'

Six lives have been lost in NSW so far this bushfire season while more than 680 homes have been destroyed.

Mr Mullins said that was three times the previous record number of homes lost, with destruction this year so far confined to regional areas.

'Formerly all of our big losses have been places like the Blue Mountains, Sutherland, Warringah and Lane Cove,' he warned. 

Some 225 homes and other buildings were destroyed in the summer of 1993-94, when four people were killed. 

The most significant losses were in the Sydney region.

a group of people walking on a bridge: The NSW Environment Department said heavy smoke lingering in Sydney is expected to clear on Wednesday thanks to a 'strong southerly' © Provided by Daily Mail The NSW Environment Department said heavy smoke lingering in Sydney is expected to clear on Wednesday thanks to a 'strong southerly'

Head of the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires Ross Bradstock said the fires in northern NSW are 'off the scale' and 'nothing like we've seen before'.

'So far, the losses have not been as high as Black Saturday and Ash Wednesday, but both of those events were in February,' he told The Australian.

'It's shaping up to be one of the worst fire seasons in Australia's history.'

Professor Bradstock said December and January are set to bring the biggest bushfire threats due to the lack of rain forecast and the 'sheer size and number of fires'. 

More than two million hectares of land has been burned to date this season and there are more than 80 fires currently raging including a so-called megafire northwest of Sydney.

Bushfires have already destroyed 724 homes and burnt out 2.7 million hectares

The fire danger remains elevated across large chunks of NSW despite a southerly wind change that brought temperatures down as it swept up the coast.

The Rural Fire Service, meanwhile, has confirmed more than 720 homes have been destroyed over the fire season.

'Unfortunately the number of homes destroyed in this fire season continues to rise - now 724 homes confirmed lost. 2.7 million hectares burnt,' RFS deputy commissioner Rob Rogers said on Twitter on Wednesday.

Firefighters have also expressed concerns about the impact the southerly change could have on Wednesday on fire grounds surrounding Sydney.

Temperatures soared in NSW on Tuesday, with hazardous bushfire smoke pollution blanketing much of the state.

There were almost 90 fires burning across NSW, with 40 uncontained.

The Bureau of Meteorology says although conditions have eased, the smoke will continue to linger on Wednesday and the next few days.

Smoke across the Sydney basin was so thick at one point on Tuesday it was deemed 11 times poorer than typically 'hazardous' levels.

Air quality was on Wednesday morning deemed 'hazardous' across Sydney's east, southwest and northwest, despite improved visibility.

'We are expecting (the smoke) to continue over the next few days ... with fires to the southwest and north of Sydney, we need easterly winds to help ease the smoke,' a BOM forecaster told AAP.

Total fire bans are in place on Wednesday for northwestern NSW, the northern slopes and the central ranges.

Fire danger is severe in the northwestern region and 'very high' in the north of the state as well as the upper central west plains, the central ranges, the southern ranges, the southern slopes and the ACT.

On Tuesday evening, an emergency alert was issued for the 67,000-hectare Little L Complex fire near Wollombi in the Hunter region.

Residents living in the Glenroy Estate area were told to seek shelter from the fire as it was too late to leave, however the blaze has since been downgraded.

An emergency warning had also been issued for the Three Mile blaze in the Hawkesbury region but it was downgraded before 4pm.

'The fires just around Sydney alone - there is kilometres and kilometres of back-burning to do to try to lock the fires in,' Mr Rogers told ABC TV.

'We've got a lot of people that are very determined to get these fires under control as quickly as we possibly can.'

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday encouraged Australians to heed expert advice on bushfire warnings and air pollution.

'I can reassure everyone the nationally-co-ordinated effort and the specific state efforts leading the response in each of their jurisdictions has been incredibly professionally deployed,' Mr Morrison told reporters.

Some 2700 firefighters were in the field on Tuesday, supported by aircraft.


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