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03 December 2023

Wild weather as cyclone, storms lash Australia

Photo: AFP


Weakening tropical cyclone Damien battered northwestern Australia's resource-rich Pilbara region on Sunday, as storms brought heavy rains and flooding to the country's bushfire-ravaged east.

The cyclone was downgraded to a Category One storm Sunday after making landfall late Saturday as a Category Three, when it brought winds of 195 kilometres per hour (121 miles per hour) at its peak and forced residents to hunker down indoors under a code red emergency warning.

The Bureau of Meteorology said Damien was weakening as it moved southeast through the sparsely populated central Pilbara on Sunday, bringing winds of up to 100 kilometres an hour and heavy rainfall that was expected to cause flooding.

"Tropical Cyclone Damien will continue to weaken as it moves further inland," the bureau said.

The storm reportedly downed trees, ripped roofs off sheds and knocked out power in the small coastal towns of Dampier and Karratha.

Meanwhile, Australia's east coast has been lashed with days of rainfall that has caused flash flooding in New South Wales and Queensland.

Flood warnings were issued for more than a dozen rivers across the two states, including in Sydney, home to about five million people and the country's biggest city, which has been drenched by heavy rainfall.

New South Wales police said they had rescued dozens of motorists who were trapped after driving their cars into floodwaters, as well as a teenager who spent two hours in waist-deep water after falling into a river in the Hunter Valley region.

Emergency services said they also received hundreds of calls for assistance as trees, boulders and power poles fell onto cars and homes, and power went out in some areas.

The heavy rain comes after months of bushfires, with the downpours dousing blazes that have burned out of control for months and raising hopes for an end to the unprecedented crisis.

One major fire -- a 500,000-hectare (1.2 million-acre) blaze south of Sydney -- was declared out late Saturday as a result of the rains while several drought-stricken areas also received downpours.

The wet weather, which began earlier in the week in some areas, is forecast to extend into next week