Severe thunderstorms are pelting some regions of Australia suffering from historic wildfires with powerful rain, bringing much-needed relief to firefighters battling the worst blazes the country has seen in decades.
Residents of drought-hit areas who have spent years waiting for rain celebrated its arrival on Thursday. Rain fell in major cities, including Sydney, where water flowed through the streets.
Due to the heavy rain, the Australian Reptile Park had to close.
The park said they haven’t seen flooding like this in 15 years. Forecasters predict more rain over the next few days, but they warn it could cause flash flooding in areas of parched land.
Years of drought have left some regions so dry that rain just runs off the ground.
The massive fires have burned through some of the vegetation that would normally soak up the precipitation.
The Victoria State Emergency Service posted several images on Facebook showing damage from the storm, including a sinkhole 13 feet deep.
Parts of Melbourne were hit with as much as 3 inches of rain, causing flooding and some damage, the Victoria Bureau of Meteorology said Thursday.
More than a dozen deaths have already been confirmed nationwide, and hundreds of structures have been destroyed.
Koala populations are also at risk, and a large portion may have died in the wildfires.
Sussan Ley, the federal environment minister, said that up to 30% may have been killed in the bush fires in New South Wales.
She says wildfires have torched up to 30% of their habitat.
According to the Australia zoo, there were only about 40,000 to 100,000 koalas remaining after "uncontrolled habitat destruction."
The animals are now considered endangered.
The New South Wales government used helicopters and airplanes to feed starving animals as bushfires continue to devastate Australia, the Dialy Mail reports.
The government reportedly dropped 4, 850 pounds of sweet potatoes and carrots to feed large groups of brush-tailed rock wallabies stranded by the fire.
Park service officials dropped food in multiple national parks as part of Operation Rock Wallaby.
New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kean said the wallabies are left stranded after the natural vegetation in their habitat is destroyed.