Thu, Nov 29, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Storm claims two lives in Sydney

‘UNPRECEDENTED’:Bushfires closed 34 schools and forced 8,000 people to evacuate in Queensland, as the state issued the highest fire danger rating for the first time ever

Reuters, SYDNEY

A firefighter puts out a bushfire in Deepwater, Australia, in a photograph released yesterday.

Photo: AP / Queensland Fire and Emergency Service

Torrential rain and gale force winds yesterday lashed Sydney, causing commuter chaos; flooding streets, railway stations and homes; grounding flights; and leaving hundreds of people without electricity.

Police called on motorists to stay off the roads. One person was killed in a car crash and two police officers seriously injured when a tree fell on them as they helped a stranded driver.

Another person, a New South Wales State Emergency Services volunteer, collapsed and died while attending a job in the Illawarra.

Greg Transell, an office manager in Sydney’s north, told Australian Broadcasting Corp that strong winds caused widespread disruption to the tower block office where he works.

“I started to go upstairs to see if there was any damage and next minute there was an almighty bang and it ripped panels off the roof in the warehouse,” Transell said.

Sydney got more than 100mm of rain in just a few hours, a level that the nation’s most populous city would normally get through the whole of November, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said.

“That’s the sort of rainfall you’d expect to see once every 100 years,” bureau New South Wales state manager Ann Farrell told reporters.

The rain offered a welcomed respite to farmers who have suffered through a sustained drought in recent months, but it caused major disruptions to transportation.

Sydney Airport, the country’s busiest, said that 130 flights had been canceled or delayed after it was forced to close two of its three runways.

“The storm is pretty intense in and around the airport,” spokeswoman Cait Kyann said. “We are operating from a single runway, so that means that there are delays and likely some flights will be canceled.”

Ausgrid, the nation’s biggest electricity network, said the storm had cut power to 8,100 customers in Sydney and the Central Coast area to its north.

By late afternoon, 1,700 homes and businesses remained without power, Ausgrid said.

The storm struck only hours before the main morning peak hour, transforming some streets into fast-flowing rivers and parks into lakes. Several stranded motorists were plucked from rising floodwaters.

“We are asking all road users to reconsider the need to be on the roads throughout what will be a severe rain event,” New South Wales Assistant Police Commissioner Michael Corboy said.

In contrast, in Queensland, soaring temperatures near 40°C and strong winds exacerbated major bushfires.

Firefighters have been battling for nearly a week to contain 138 fires across the state, and 8,000 people were ordered to evacuate the city of Gracemere, about 600km north of the state capital, Brisbane.

“These are unprecedented conditions,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said. “We have not seen the likes of this.”

The fire danger was rated catastrophic in areas of central Queensland, the first time the highest danger rating had been applied to the state, Palaszczuk said.

She said 34 schools had been closed in the most threatened regions and told families not to go out, to keep together and prepare to leave if needed.

Homes had been destroyed since Saturday in areas where the fire danger remained too high for teams to enter and assess damage, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll said.

She expected that fewer than 10 homes had been lost so far.

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