Sydney hit by 'once in 100 years' storm

Workers trying to clear a drain, as a vehicle splashes through floodwaters on Railway Terrace during rainy weather in Sydney yesterday, when the city received more than a month's worth of rain in just two hours.
Workers trying to clear a drain, as a vehicle splashes through floodwaters on Railway Terrace during rainy weather in Sydney yesterday, when the city received more than a month's worth of rain in just two hours.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

City sees floods, flight disruption and power failures, even as Queensland fights bush fires

SYDNEY • Torrential rain and gale force winds lashed Australia's biggest city of Sydney yesterday, causing commuter chaos and flooding streets, railway stations and homes.

Flights were also grounded.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology Sydney got more than 100mm of rain in just a few hours, a level that the country's most populous city would normally get for the whole of November.

"That's the sort of rainfall you'd expect to see once every 100 years," said Ms Ann Farrell, the bureau's state manager.

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

Mr Greg Transell, an office manager in Sydney's north, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation 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," he said.

Sydney airport, the country's busiest, said 130 flights had been cancelled or delayed after it was forced to close two of its three runways.

"The storm is pretty intense in and around the airport," Ms Cait Kyann, an airport spokesman, said.

"We are operating from a single runway so that means that there are delays and likely some flights will be cancelled."

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.

In contrast, in Australia's northern state of Queensland, soaring temperatures near 40 deg C and strong winds exacerbated major bush fires.

Firefighters have been battling for nearly a week to contain more than 130 fires across Queensland, and 8,000 people were ordered to evacuate the city of Gracemere, about 600km north of the state capital, Brisbane.

"These are unprecedented conditions," said state premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. "We have not seen the likes of this."

The Bureau of Meteorology has declared a "catastrophic" fire danger - the highest possible risk rating - in some central areas.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2018, with the headline 'Sydney hit by 'once in 100 years' storm'. Print Edition | Subscribe