Wild weather ravages Australia's east

Last updated 15:54 25/02/2013

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Australian rescue teams have saved 16 children after their bus was trapped by flash flooding in southern Brisbane in a huge storm dumping heavy rain on southeast Queensland.

The bus became stranded between two parts of a road that were rapidly flooding.

The Department of Community Safety (DCS) says three crews  including swift-water technicians used inflatable boats to ferry the children to safety.

The rescue was the only call for help to the DCS since a huge trough crossed the coast early this morning.

The storm was expected to dump up to 200 millimetres of rain on  parts of the state's southeast into the early hours of Tuesday.

Torrential rain between Brisbane and Bundaberg may cause flash flooding over the next 24 hours.

The Mary River, in southeast Queensland, has had about 40-60mm  of rain in six hours. The town of Gympie is expecting a minor flood peak of six metres later tonight.

The Brisbane City Council has set up sandbag distribution points at four locations in the city as people prepare for heavier rain from Tuesday.

Surfers Paradise Beach was expected to take another battering after becoming a dangerous three-metre cliff following ex-tropical cyclone Oswald in January, with stairs and walkways to the sand being ripped out of the dunes.

Sunshine Coast lifesaver Rhys Drury said huge swells from strong east-northeasterly winds were set to worsen.

"It's a pretty horrible day down here on the beach," he told ABC radio.

"The winds are quite strong ... and they'll get stronger as the day goes on."

Weather bureau senior forecaster Vinord Anand said rainfall was likely to be heavier on the coast.

"If it was spread out over a day or two it would be alright but if it falls in the next six to 12 hours that can cause big problems," he said.

SYDNEY CLEANS UP

As massive clean-up began in New South Wales, from the north down to Sydney, forecaster warned storms could continue for the rest of the week.

Communities from Kempsey in the state's north to eastern suburbs of Sydney and Kiama south of Wollongong have been assessing damage from heavy rain and strong wind over the weekend.

About 70 residents from Kiama were being evacuated because of fears that strewn debris was contaminated by asbestos.

More than 170 homes were damaged, including three which were destroyed, when the storm ripped through the seaside town on Sunday morning.

Gale-force winds uprooted trees and stripped roofs, with fears much of the debris contains asbestos.

Town mayor Brian Petschler told AAP about 70 people lived in the  asbestos exclusion zone created by debris from the leisure centre  and a house that ''blew up'' on the edge of town.

The Bureau of Meteorology was considering sending severe weather experts to several areas, including Kiama, where many houses were damaged.

Experts debate whether the Kiama event was a tornado or a downburst from a thunderstorm.

Josh Fisher, head meteorologist at Weatherzone, said the storm had the characteristics of a tornado from the radar observations: "It was a rotating storm over Kiama."

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Mohammed Nabi, severe weather forecaster at the weather bureau, though, said the straight-line nature of the event suggested it was a thunderstorm downburst.

More investigation would be needed to be sure, he said.

Sydney's Warragamba Dam was spilling over, adding to flooding from several rivers which was threatening the suburbs of Penrith and Richmond.

- AAP and Sydney Morning Herald

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