Fires and floods in Aussie summer lunacy

After a record-breaking week Australia is copping two extreme ends of the weather spectrum - as major flooding hits Queensland's far north and Tasmania suffers through devastating bushfires.

In the Sunshine State, water levels at the Daintree River have exceeded nine metres and residents along its tributaries, the Mossman River and other waterways in the shire have been warned to prepare as waters continue to rise.

And, in Tasmania, blazes have burned through 99,000 hectares of land across the past month. Hundreds of people have been forced into evacuation centres and have destroyed a homestead, a shed and a fishing hut due to the ongoing fires.

Australians are copping two extremes of the weather spectrum this weekend. Picture: Windy
Australians are copping two extremes of the weather spectrum this weekend. Picture: Windy

It comes as an intense heatwave - bringing high temperatures that have been plaguing Adelaide and Melbourne throughout the long weekend - starts to ease.



The picture couldn't be more different in far north Queensland, where ferry services have been shut down as the river reached major flood levels on Saturday night.

The last time the river reached these heights was in 2014, when it hit 10.5 metres.

Heavy rain and strong winds have been forecast for the state's far north in coming days, although communities were spared a cyclone that fizzled out after crossing land.

Some Australia Day activities were cancelled or changed in Cairns, where the airport was hit with 99mm of rain from 9am.

Further south at Peet's Bridge, 229mm of rain bucketed down in the 24 hours prior, and 170mm was recorded at nearby Gordonvale for the same period. Warnings of flooding, heavy rainfall and strong winds remain for the area stretching from Lockhart River to Ingham and across to the western side of the peninsula.

Meteorologist Mark Trenorden said those conditions can be expected for a few days.

Authorities are warning people to avoid flooded waterways.

Queensland police's far north district acting chief superintendent Glen Pointing said two cyclone systems in recent months had already drenched the area. "So it is not going to take much for river and creek heights along with other water courses to rise rapidly, creating significant risks to the many motorists travelling for the long weekend," he said.

"We are also mindful that it is still school holidays, and we ask parents to be mindful of where their children are playing, particularly with the temptations that increased water flows can bring."



Five hundred firefighters are working around the clock to contain scores of blazes ravaging the island state before the weather heats up.

Emergency workers, including some from interstate and New Zealand, are trying to keep threatened communities safe and tackle about 50 fires still raging.

The Great Pine Tier fire has burned almost 40,000 hectares with significant fire activity in the Waddamama area still putting communities at risk on Sunday. Several communities are still at risk from the Great Pine Tier and Riveaux Road/Tahune Airwalk fires.

"The key thing we need people to be aware of is even though conditions are milder today, this could be regarded as the 'eye of the storm'," Tasmania Fire Service's Deputy Chief Officer Bruce Byatt said on Saturday.

There was also some bitter news with a fire reportedly started on Saturday from a discarded cigarette butt in the Fortescue Bay Road area, Mr Byatt added.

The Bureau of Meteorology is warning next Wednesday will be another high-temperature day in the southern state with little rain in sight. Community meetings will be held in Zeehan, Rosebery, Bothwell, Miena and Maydena on Sunday, before a broader public update on the fires later in the afternoon.

A protection plan for the Walls of Jerusalem National Park has been enacted and remote area teams moved into the area.

Federal Liberal MP Dan Tehan told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday his thoughts were with those battling the blazes, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison would visit when appropriate.

"As a Country Fire Authority member I have seen first-hand the impact that those fires can have especially on those fighting those fires, but also, on those communities," he said.

"I am sure the prime minister is following very closely what is occurring with the fires there and when it is deemed appropriate, you can be rest assured he will visit Tasmania and ensure that those communities are getting everything they need to help them rebuild."

Communities near bushfires are encouraged to remain alert and keep proactively checking for updates on the conditions from the state's fire service.

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