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Record dry November in Australia fuels deadly fires

by Reuters
Thursday, 5 December 2019 03:21 GMT

An officer with NSW Fire and Rescue protects the Colo Heights Public School from the Gospers Mountain fire near Colo Heights south west of Sydney, Australia, November 19, 2019. AAP Image/Dean Lewins/via REUTERS

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The dry weather is not expected to break for at least another three months heightening the risk of more bushfires

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Australia recorded its lowest level of rainfall for the month of November, the country's weather bureau said on Thursday, as an unrelenting drought fuels deadly bushfires.

All of Australia received less then 50 mm (1.9 inches) of rain during November, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said, with parts of the west coast receiving less than 1 mm.

The dry weather extends a drought that has gripped Australia's east coast for three years and left bushland tinder-box dry as bushfires rage across the most populous states.

Bushfires have killed at least four people and destroyed more than 400 homes since the start of November. Fires are still burning in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland states.

The dry weather is not expected to break for at least another three months, BOM said last week, heightening the risk of more bushfires.

With no rain relief, firefighters on Thursday continued to battle more than 100 blazes across the east coast and with winds set to strengthen authorities are worried the fires may spread.

"Today will be a long and challenging day," the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said in a statement.

The crisis has put pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison as critics say the Australian leader has not done enough to address the impact of climate change, which meteorologists have said was extending the length of the fire weather season.

As well as bushfires, the dry weather has also had a devastating impact of Australia's agriculture sector.

Australia's chief commodity forecaster on Tuesday cut its wheat production forecast by nearly 20% for the year through June 2020, with output expected to fall to an 11-year low.

As Australian farmers were harvesting crops, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences pegged production of the country's largest rural export at 15.85 million tonnes, down nearly 18% from its previous estimate in September of 19.2 million tonnes.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry)

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