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Wildfires declared contained in Australia's most populous state

Bushfires burn along a mountainside on Feb. 3, 2020 near Bumbalong, Australia. (Getty/Kyodo)

SYDNEY (Kyodo) -- After a summer of wildfires considered unprecedented in scale, all blazes in Australia's most populous state of New South Wales have been contained, the state's Rural Fire Service said late Thursday.

    The announcement followed a week of heavy rains that have caused flooding in parts of eastern Australia but that have also aided firefighters in bringing the blazes under control, some of which had been burning in excess of 200 days.

    "After what's been a truly devastating fire season for both firefighters and residents who suffered through so much this season, all fires are now contained in New South Wales," Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said in a video message on Twitter.

    There are still fires burning in the state's south, but all blazes are under control, Rogers added.

    While wildfires are a common occurrence during Australian summers, the 2019-2020 season started earlier than previous years and has seen fires that have burned more intensely due to prolonged drought conditions.

    Australia's Chief Scientist Alan Finkel said on Wednesday that climate change has played a major role in the scale and severity of this season's fires.

    "The link between climate change, a rising number of forest fire danger days and our season of bushfires is clear, and has resulted in a steep collective cost that can be measured in billions of dollars in economic damage," he told the National Press Club.

    The fires have killed 33 people and an estimated 1 billion animals.

    It is estimated that across Australia, almost 12 million hectares of wilderness have been devastated in the fires.

    In New South Wales alone, some 5.4 million hectares have burned.

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