Australia: fires brought under control on listed Fraser Island

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Australian firefighters have successfully brought under control the massive fires that have destroyed more than half of the forests on World Heritage listed Fraser Island.

Heavy rains over the weekend helped control the fires on the world’s largest sand island, 122 km long but only separated from mainland Australia by a 1 km strait.

“With the help of salutary rain and a massive response from firefighters, the fires are now under control,” the Queensland State Fire Department tweeted on Sunday.

A banned campfire is believed to be the cause of these fires, which started more than two months ago.

Authorities are now worried about the risk of flooding on the east side of Australia linked to this meteorological phenomenon, similar to a category 1 cyclone.

Heavy rainfall and wind gusts hit tourist areas of the Gold Coast, as well as Byron Bay, where severe erosion threatens the city’s famous beach.

The storms come a week after a strong heat wave that, in some areas, brought temperatures above 35 degrees.

Climate change is worsening extreme weather events in Australia, including forest fires, cyclones and drought, scientists say.

The country is one of the largest exporters of fossil fuels and the Conservative government of Scott Morrison is reluctant to cut carbon emissions as recent polls show growing concern among Australians about global warming.

The Fraser Island fire comes a year after a particularly severe forest fire season.

An area the size of the UK went up in smoke and 33 people were killed.

The Queensland Wildlife and Parks Department said the fires burned more than 50% of the 1,660 km2 island, raising fears of significant environmental damage.

Also known for its packs of dingoes, wild dogs, Fraser Island was listed as a World Heritage Site for its “majestic remains of large rainforests growing on the sand and half of the perched freshwater dune lakes of the world”, according to Unesco.

Also called K’gari, which means “paradise” in the language of the indigenous Butchulla people, it attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.

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