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Heavy rain, floods lash eastern Australia, help with fires

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Heavy rains lashed parts of the wildfire and drought-stricken Australian east coast on Friday, bringing some flooding in Sydney and relief to firefighters still dealing with dozens of blazes in New South Wales.

New South Wales is the state hardest hit by wildfires that have killed at least 33 and destroyed more than 3,000 homes in an unprecedented fire season that began late in a record-dry 2019. New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said he was optimistic the rain will help extinguish some blazes over the coming days. He said there were still 42 fires burning in the state, with 17 of those not contained.

"The rain is good for business and farms as well as being really good for quenching some of these fires we've been dealing with for many, many months," he said. “We don't want to see lots of widespread damage and disruption from flooding, but it is certainly a welcome change to the relentless campaign of hot, dry weather," he added.

Firefighters can’t contain major blazes across the southeast without heavy rain. The rain forecast to move southwest from the northeastern coast over the next week would be the first substantial soakings to reach dozens of fires that have spread for weeks.

Heavy rain and flash-flooding warnings extend across most of the New South Wales coast. Authorities say they rescued six people stranded from flood water in New South Wales since Wednesday.

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