Wild winds hit Australian coast amid flood warnings
AFPSYDNEY -- Destructive tornadoes hit Australia's northeast coast on Saturday, as officials warned parts of Queensland state to prepare for flooding, with torrential rains lashing the state set to intensify.
January 27, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said wild gusts had caused much damage in Bargara near Bundaberg, about 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Brisbane.
“We've had ... what appears to be a mini-tornado, there are reports of significant damage,” he told reporters in Brisbane.
“Unroofing of various buildings around that town, power lines down and potentially an incident where a tree has gone down on a motor vehicle with, I believe two occupants. We have declared a disaster in that area.”
Police said the two people in the crushed car were seriously injured, while at least one other person was hurt by falling debris during the storm.
Bargara resident Judith McNamara told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she saw a tree fly through the air.
“I was standing here at the kitchen and all of a sudden this big vacuum sort of came like that through here. I looked up and the next thing the tree went flying through the air, that tree and the car went up,” she said.
Officials said there were also a second severe storm gust at Burnett Heads, also near Bundaberg, which damaged 150 homes.
“There are a number of small towns and suburbs that were hit by the mini-tornadoes,” Queensland Emergency Services Minister Jack Dempsey said.
“We are still trying to assess the extent of the damage.”
Queensland has experienced days of extremely heavy rainfall in the wake of tropical cyclone Oswald, and Newman warned that the government had concerns about potential flooding in Bundaberg and further south in Maryborough.
In Gladstone, north of Bundaberg, there are fears that floodwaters could impact hundreds of properties, with some people asked to evacuate.
Newman said southeast Queensland is expected to receive up to 300 millimeters of rainfall in the coming days as he warned that many beaches were closed due to high winds, high tides and dangerous surf conditions.
“The rain event has only just started, there will be more intense rain over the next two days,” he said.
“Right now we are trying to get a handle on what the potential impact of those rainfall figures across the catchment will be.”