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Heavy rain brings flash floods to parts of eastern Australia as bushfires rage on

Image: Staff member carries koalas as they secure the park during flooding
A staff member carries koalas after flooding caused by heavy rainfall at the Australian Reptile Park in Somersby, New South Wales. Copyright AUSTRALIAN REPTILE PARK
By Isobel van Hagen and Associated Press with NBC News World News
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Heavy rainstorms have brought some relief to Australia on Saturday as they soaked the ravaging bushfires, they also led flash flooding.


After months of intense heat and devastating bushfires, Australia's east coast was battered by heavy rainstorms Saturday, causing flash flooding in parts and road closures.

Major highways were closed in Queensland as the state was hit with some of the heaviest rain the country has seen for months. There were also power was cut in parts of New South Wales.

"Heavy, intense rainfall has eased, but showers and thunderstorms still possible through the weekend," the Bureau of Meteorology in Queensland tweeted Saturday, noting 100 mm of rainfall in many locations.

"Take care on the roads - if it's flooded, forget it."

Parts of the state also saw triple the monthly rainfall overnight. While no major damage has been reported, some residential areas were flooded and many of the state's parks and tourist attractions were closed down.

Despite the downpour, authorities are still battling nearly 100 blazes, which have killed 29 people since September and destroyed more than 2,500 homes. Smoke from the wildfires has also circumnavigated the globe, NASA announced Tuesday.

New South Wales fire services nonetheless welcomed the rain, which they said would help to control the 75 fires burning in the state. However, around 25 are yet to be contained.

"Although this rain won't extinguish all fires, it will certainly go a long way towards containment," they tweeted.

Where flames have subsided, biologists are starting to look for survivors of the estimated more than one billion wild animals that have been killed in the blaze. Their hope is to find enough rare and endangered species to rebuild populations of creatures found nowhere else on the planet such as koalas, kangaroos and wallabies.

"I don't think we've seen a single event in Australia that has destroyed so much habitat and pushed so many creatures to the very brink of extinction," Kingsley Dixon, an ecologist at Curtin University in Perth, told the Associated Press.

However, specialist firefighters did manage to save the world's last remaining wild stand of a prehistoric tree, officials said. They set up an irrigation system to keep the so-called "dinosaur trees" moist and pumped water daily.

As relief efforts continued a number of fundraising events have taken place to aid those who have lost their homes and the wildlife rescue efforts.

However, a founding member of popular Australian children's music group "The Wiggles", Greg Page, was hospitalized after he suffered a cardiac arrest while performing at a bushfire relief concert in Sydney.

The group nonetheless said they will go ahead with their second fundraising event on Saturday night.

"Greg's main concern was that the show tonight should go on," the band said. "Let's do it for Greg whilst raising much needed funds."

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