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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Wild storms leave trail of chaos in Australia - January 21, 2005

Wild storms leave trail of chaos in Australia

A LINE of ferocious windstorms swept across southern New South Wales and the ACT last night, demolishing a pub, partially unroofing a hospital and damaging hundreds of homes.

With winds in excess of 120km/h and hailstones the size of golf balls, emergency workers said the storms were some of the fiercest for several years.

About 30,000 homes and businesses across NSW were without power last night, with the SES receiving more than 120 calls for assistance from distressed and blacked-out residents.

More than 100 homes were damaged in the Riverina and Shoalhaven regions, thousands of trees were uprooted and lightning strikes sparked a spate of small grassfires.

State Emergency Service spokesman Rick Stone said Tumut hospital had been partially unroofed, as had a college at Griffith TAFE.


The SES provided emergency power generators for the Junee hospital. And in Mattong, the savage storms "effectively demolished" the local pub, Mr Stone said.

"It's a wild one," he said.

"We've been getting a huge number of calls and we've got more than 100 SES volunteers - assisted by the Rural Fire Service and NSW Fire Brigade - working flat out making temporary repairs."

Lightning strikes also hit a main electricity feeder line at Temora, cutting power to 8000 Country Energy customers.

"They've certainly been surprising - some of the worst storms I've seen since Country Energy formed in 2001," regional manager Wayne Lynch told the ABC.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the storms had been whipped up by an intense low-pressure system near Adelaide that moved from South Australia east into southern NSW throughout the day.

The township of Culcairn, close to the Victorian border, received almost its average monthly rainfall - about 45mm - in less than three hours yesterday.

By early evening, the storms had swept into Sydney and surrounding suburbs.

Flights out of Sydney airport were delayed by 30 minutes as repeated lightning strikes prevented baggage handlers from walking on to the tarmac.

And Sydney train commuters faced significant delays after lightning damaged track equipment at Blackheath.

But by 8pm the SES said there were no reports of significant damage across the metropolitan area.

Additional reporting: AAP

The Australian

The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity. ~ Arthur J. Balfour




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