Nine dead in severe Christmas thunderstorms across eastern Australia

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Nine people have died after Christmas storms pounded Australia’s eastern seaboard, authorities said on Wednesday, including two women who were washed through a stormwater drain.

Thunderstorms and destructive winds have in recent days battered the Australian states of Victoria and Queensland -- capsizing boats, sparking flash floods, and tearing down concrete powerlines.

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The government weather bureau has warned that coastal regions in Queensland were still at risk of “dangerous” storms, “life-threatening” floods, “giant” hail, and “damaging” winds.

Severe thunderstorms battered Australia’s eastern states over the Christmas holidays. (Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland)
Severe thunderstorms battered Australia’s eastern states over the Christmas holidays. (Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland)

Three women were “exploring” a large stormwater drain in the ru-ral Queensland town of Gympie when they were swept away by floodwaters on Tuesday afternoon, police said.

By Wednesday police divers had recovered the bodies of two of the women. The third survived after she was washed onto the banks of a nearby river.

Eleven people were tossed into the ocean when a 39-foot yacht capsized at sea during an annual fishing trip near Brisbane.

Police said on Wednesday that three men had drowned, while eight survivors had been scooped from the water and rushed to hospital.

“It has been a very tragic 24 hours due to the weather,” police commissioner Katarina Carroll told reporters.

The body of a nine-year-old girl was found after she went missing in flood waters on Brisbane’s outskirts, police said, while a 59-year-old woman was killed by a falling tree on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Utility company Energex said it was racing to restore electricity to more than 80,000 homes in the state.

“How strong were those storms? Enough to snap multiple con-crete poles supporting high-voltage lines,” it posted on social me-dia.

Meanwhile in Victoria, a woman was found dead late on Tuesday evening after flash floods swamped a regional campground in Buchan, 350 kilometers (217 miles) east of the state capital Mel-bourne.

A man was killed after he was struck by a falling tree branch in Caringal, 180 kilometers (111 miles) east of Melbourne.

“It’s absolutely tragic news for families in this region at Christmas time,” Gympie Mayor Glen Hartwig told ABC news.

Severe thunderstorms hit the eastern states on Dec. 25 and Dec. 26 bringing large hailstones, high winds and torrential rains. Rivers flooded and high winds blew off roofs and brought down trees in some of the worst-affected areas.

The Bureau of Meteorology still has some minor flood warnings in place in the eastern states and further rain is forecast.

Queenland’s state-owned Energex said on Wednesday that around 86,000 households remained without electricity following the storms. It said in a post on messaging platform X, previously known as Twitter, it had sustained severe damage to its network with more that 800 power lines down, and expected it to take days to restore power to some people.

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

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