Australia

Fire-hit Australia faces 'dangerous' downpours

Severe weather warnings for rain, winds and flooding have been issued for coastal areas of the eastern state.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) warned of "dangerous conditions" on Saturday and Sunday.

There has already been flooding in Sydney and other areas along the coast.

Friday was the wettest day recorded in well over a year in Sydney, where roads were closed and public transport delayed.

Other NSW towns faced flood waters as well, including Byron Bay and Coffs Harbour, where 280mm and 250mm of rain fell respectively.

Coronavirus outbreak: First Australian evacuees from Wuhan sent to Christmas Island

The evacuees were first sent to specially quarantined facilities at a remote airbase in Western Australia.

The Qantas 747 touched down last night (NZ time) at a Royal Australian Air Force base about 1200km north of Perth, carrying 243 passengers, 14 crew, four pilots and officials from the Department of Health.

Several children were on board, with 89 evacuees under 16 years of age, including five under the age of two.

The 747 could not land at the small Christmas Island airstrip, so the passengers will be transferred to two smaller planes to make the trip.

Koalas found dead on Australia logging plantation

Blue gum trees - an important koala habitat - were harvested from the plantation in December, leaving only a few isolated stands of trees.

Some koalas had starved to death in the remaining trees. Others were apparently killed by bulldozers.

About 80 surviving koalas have been removed and are being cared for.

The deaths come after tens of thousands of koalas were killed in the bushfires that have ravaged Australia. The marsupial is listed as "vulnerable" by Australia's Environment Ministry.

Australian lab first outside of China to re-create coronavirus, helping vaccine push

Described as a "game changer" that will help scientists determine whether a future vaccine is effective, experts at Melbourne's Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity on Tuesday became the world's first scientific lab outside of China to recreate the virus.

They will now share it with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Europe, which will in turn share it with labs worldwide — including one from Queensland — involved in the worldwide race to develop a vaccine.

The team of scientists grew the virus from a patient who had been infected since Friday.

Death toll rises as coronavirus disease spreads

There are currently 1,287 confirmed cases in China, 41 of whom have died.

It comes as China is begins celebrations of the Lunar New Year, one of the most important dates in its calendar.

Many events have been cancelled and a new hospital is being built in the city of Wuhan.

The virus has now spread to Europe, with three cases confirmed in France.

The first case was in Bordeaux, while the other two were in the Paris area, the French health minister said on Friday night.

And one case has been confirmed in Australia.

     

Australia fires: PNG to send 100 soldiers

Australia's High Commissioner to PNG, Bruce Davis, said the initial deployment would assist the Australian military with its response.

PNG prime minister James Marape had earlier offered to send 1000 soldiers and firefighters.

Vanuatu has also come to Australia's aid, donating $US175,000 to the bushfire recovery effort.

On Thursday, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison thanked PNG, Vanuatu and Fiji for their support, calling it overwhelming.

Palau's president has also written to Mr Morrison to offer support.

Victoria’s state of disaster extended ahead of ‘significant fire activity’ forecast

The declaration, which gives the state and emergency services additional powers, was put into place last Thursday.

Mr Andrews said the extension was needed to manage what was likely to be a significant increase in bushfire activity over the next 48 hours.

The state of disaster covers East Gippsland, the Alpine region and the state's north-east.

Authorities are urging people to leave the Alpine region and all areas east of Bairnsdale, in East Gippsland, as the fire danger once again ramps up.

Australia bushfires might burn for months, Morrison warns

At least 24 people have died since the fires began in September. Air quality in the capital Canberra was this weekend rated the worst in the world.

Mr Morrison announced the creation of a recovery agency to help those who have lost homes and businesses in the fires.

He has faced fierce criticism over the speed of his response to the crisis.

The weekend saw some of the worst days of the crisis so far, with hundreds more properties destroyed. Rural towns and major cities saw red skies, falling ash and smoke that clogged the air.

Australia claim series win

New Zealand wilted in the Melbourne heat at the MCG, where Australia wrapped up a crushing 247-run win on day four of the second Test on Sunday.

Blundell rallied for the Black Caps, celebrating his second Test hundred in three matches with a resilient 121 runs, but he had no support from his team-mates after Nathan Lyon (4-81) and James Pattinson (3-35) starred.

Marnus Labuschagne (1-11) ended Blundell's unforgettable innings late in the evening as Australia only required nine wickets to skittle New Zealand for 240 – Trent Boult not batting due to a fractured finger.

Preliminary BOM results show Tuesday was Australia's hottest day on record

The average temperature across the country was 40.9 degrees Celsius, breaking the mark of 40.3C set in January 2013, but it's a record unlikely to last for long.

Temperatures were well over 45C for much of the interior — the location record (50.7C at Oodnadatta) is still safe — but the wide spread of exceptional heat meant the national average record was broken.

The heat is expected to keep building over the next few days as the air mass moves across the country.