Three dead as wild weather lashes NSW


Three peo­ple died as the Aus­tralian state of New South Wales was lashed by a “oncein-a-decade” storm Tues­day with homes washed away, thou­sands hit by power cuts and sand drifts sweep­ing in­land off Syd­ney’s iconic Bondi beach.

Sea swells also ham­pered ship­ping as the re­gion around Australia’s big­gest city suf­fered its sec­ond day of gale-force winds of up to 135 kilo­me­ters per hour (83 miles per hour) and tor­ren­tial rain.

The Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy said 119 mil­lime­ters (five inches) of rain had fallen in Syd­ney in 24 hours — the city’s wettest pe­riod since 2002.

The de­struc­tive winds blan­keted parks, pave­ments and roads with sand from beaches in­clud­ing Bondi, while trees were up­rooted, crash­ing onto cars, and power lines blown down.

Dozens of flights were de­layed and at least one cruise ship found it­self stuck at sea out­side Syd­ney Har­bour.

New South Wales state Pre­mier Mike Baird said 4,500 calls had been made to emer­gency ser­vices.

“There is no doubt this is a very se­vere storm event, in­deed it is a once in 10-year event,” he said.

“We have lost some homes. There is a num­ber of roofs taken off. We have also lost life. It is a huge storm event that is wreak­ing havoc across NSW at the mo­ment.”

New South Wales po­lice said three peo­ple died in the coun­try town of Dun­gog, 215 kilo­me­ters (133 miles) north of Syd­ney, which was soaked by 300 mil­lime­ters (12 inches) of rain in 24 hours.

“Dur­ing the morn­ing a woman and two men were lo­cated de­ceased within the Dun­gog town­ship. The cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing their deaths are still to be determined,” they said in a state­ment.

Video footage posted on­line showed a wooden house be­ing swept away by flash floods, although it was not clear if this was linked to the deaths.

The Dun­gog Chron­i­cle said four houses had been washed away and that the two men and one woman who died, all el­derly, were trapped in their homes as flood­wa­ter surged through the town.

“The wa­ter came out of nowhere, it just rose that quick,” Dun­gog res­i­dent Jarod Rits, 18, told the news­pa­per. “The wa­ter was just a roar, re­ally, just rush­ing through the streets.”

Po­lice ad­vised Dun­gog res­i­dents and oth­ers in sur­round­ing ar­eas to leave their homes and move to an evac­u­a­tion cen­ter at a lo­cal high school, or to stay with fam­ily and friends.

Baird said the State Emer­gency Ser­vices (SES) had car­ried out 47 flood res­cues.

“There have been mul­ti­ple per­sons trapped in ve­hi­cles, be­ing trapped in build­ings and be­ing trapped on top of build­ings while try­ing to take refuge from flood­wa­ters,” SES deputy chief Steven Pearce told re­porters.

Speak­ing ear­lier to the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion, he said: “We’ve haven’t seen this sort of weather pat­tern, this east-coast low or one as se­vere as this, in years.”

In Syd­ney, the har­bor pi­lot could not board the gi­ant Car­ni­val Spirit cruise ship due to mas­sive swells. The ves­sel lan­guished in the open ocean with hun­dreds of pas­sen­gers on board.

The Port Author­ity of New South Wales said the har­bor had been closed for com­mer­cial ship­ping, pos­si­bly for 48 hours. Fer­ries across Syd­ney were can­celed or had limited ser­vices.

ABC re­ported that one per­son was also miss­ing near New­cas­tle, 150 kilo­me­ters north of Syd­ney, af­ter flood­wa­ters rushed through a camp­ground and washed away camper­vans and car­a­vans.

Dozens of schools were closed, while the elec­tric­ity util­ity Aus­grid said around 200,000 homes and busi­nesses were with­out power across Syd­ney and the Cen­tral Coast and Hunter Val­ley ar­eas to the north.

Nu­mer­ous roads were also closed due to flood­ing, fallen trees and downed power lines.

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