Australia: 8 dead, 1 missing amid severe thunderstorms

Australia: 8 dead, 1 missing amid severe thunderstorms

Sydney, The Gulf Observer: Eight people were killed and one is missing in Australia after severe thunderstorms battered the country’s east over the Christmas holidays, authorities said on Wednesday, with tens of thousands of properties still without power.

Wild weather lashed the states of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland on Dec. 25 and 26 bringing large hailstones and torrential rains. Strong winds blew off roofs and brought down trees in some of the worst-affected areas.

Three men were killed after a yacht with 11 on board capsized near Green Island in Moreton Bay, Queensland state Police Commissioner Katarina Carrol told reporters.

A nine-year-old girl and a woman were found dead in separate incidents in Queensland after they were swept away in flooded stormwater drains. Two were killed by falling trees.

Authorities warned fast-rising rivers and streams could burst banks inundating campgrounds, which usually become crowded during the Christmas and New Year weeks.

A woman was found dead in a campground in Victoria after flood waters receded, police said.

Queensland’s state-owned Energex said more than 90,000 households were still without power following the storms, adding it had sustained severe damage to its network with hundreds of power lines down and it would take days to restore power.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has forecast further rain though the wild weather was expected to ease later on Wednesday.

“Thankfully today, we are not expecting to see quite as widespread thunderstorm activity but there is still a risk of severe thunderstorms right across the east coast,” forecaster Jonathan How told ABC television.

The storms came after former Tropical Cyclone Jasper which made landfall earlier this month causing flooding and widespread damage in Queensland.

As Australia battles rain in the east, several regions in the west, in contrast, are fighting fires. A volunteer firefighter was killed while responding to a bushfire, media reported.

Australia is now experiencing an El Nino weather phenomenon, which can cause extremes ranging from wildfires to tropical cyclones and prolonged droughts.