UPDATE, January 28, 2020: Australia's devastating summer continues to wreak havoc on the island nation with relentless bushfires, flash flooding, dust storms and a deluge of hail. Following the relief of rain that hit some regions of eastern Australia in recent weeks, new threats quickly began to surface. Land stripped of vegetation as a result of the blazes could not contain the deluge and reports of flash flooding surged. The rains washed ash and sludge into rivers killing hundreds of thousands of native fish, while also picking up dirt, debris and smoke from the nearby fires producing a now-common phenomenon in some parts of Australia called "ash rain". Drought-stricken land in New South Wales was hit with dust storms after the rain, while Melbourne received golf ball-sized hail that shredded trees and smashed windscreens. A combination of dust and rain turned Melbourne's Yarra River a chocolate brown. Some fires continue to burn while in other areas more rain is forecast, leaving Australians wondering "What's next?"

Heavy rain pelted some regions of eastern Australia this week providing a glimmer of relief for people and wildlife suffering as a result of bushfires that continue to ravage the country. Severe thunderstorms hit parts of New South Wales and Victoria on Thursday and, although the storms are unlikely to extinguish all of the fires with lightning actually sparking some fresh blazes, they "certainly go a long way towards containment," the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS) wrote in an update on Twitter.

The welcome rains are something of a double-edged sword with rescue authorities responding to several callouts for damage caused by flash floods. "While the rain is welcomed, heavy rainfall and storms in fire-affected areas can lead to dangerous conditions such as a higher risk of flash flooding, falling trees and landslips," Paul Bailey, the state's emergency services assistant commissioner, told reporters.

Some neighbourhoods in Melbourne were pummelled with a month's worth of rain in just a few hours according to some reports. Much more will be needed, though, in areas where the worst fires are raging if the rain is to truly provide relief. For Australia's firefighters, more rain "will be all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one," NSWRFS wrote on Twitter. "Fingers crossed."

Shortly after the storms, reports of damage from the deluge began to surface online. These photos, uploaded by the Victoria State Emergency Service, show flooded streets and a giant sinkhole following the heavy rain:

Bushfires began sweeping through Victoria and New South Wales late last year and have developed into some of the most damaging blazes the country has seen in decades. At least 28 people have been killed and ecologists estimate that over a billion animals have perished in the heat and smog. Slower animals like koalas have become symbols of the disaster as countless photos and videos have surfaced of the marsupials struggling in the harsh conditions. Wildlife rescuers are working tirelessly to save as many animals as possible.

The recent wet weather is expected to continue over the weekend, however, storm warnings in Victoria and New South Wales were cancelled earlier today suggesting that the deluge may be subsiding.

Header/lead image: bertknot/Flickr