At least nine people have been killed after severe storms battered Australia’s eastern states over the Christmas holidays, bringing down trees and power lines and leaving tens of thousands of households without power.
Police and rescue services in the states of Victoria and Queensland confirmed the deaths of eight people, the youngest being a nine-year-old girl who was reportedly swept away in a flooded storm drain on the outskirts of Brisbane, Queensland’s capital.
In Gympie, some 180km (111 miles) north of the city, three women were swept into a storm drain when floodwaters surged through the rural town.
One of them survived, but the two others were found dead.
Severe thunderstorms hit the country’s eastern coast, bringing large hailstones, high winds and torrential rain. Rivers flooded and the winds ripped off roofs and brought down trees in some of the worst-affected areas.
Eleven people were thrown into the ocean when their boat capsized in the sea at Moreton Bay in Queensland’s south. Police said on Wednesday that three people had drowned, while eight were rescued from the water and rushed to the hospital. They are in stable condition.
Queensland’s power company, Energex, said the storm brought down more than 1,000 power lines and about 86,000 households remained without electricity. It was expected to take days to restore power to some people, the company said.
Meanwhile, in Victoria, a woman was found dead late on Tuesday evening after flash floods swamped a regional campground in Buchan, 350km (217 miles) east of the state capital Melbourne. Two people were also killed by falling trees.
The wild weather also took a toll on the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Less than 24 hours after the 95 boats left Sydney Harbour on December 26 on their way south to the Tasmanian capital, eight entrants had pulled out.
SHK Scallywag, a Hong Kong-owned ship that had been contesting for the lead, was damaged and crew member Geoff Cropley said the sailors had endured “lightning and thunder for hours.”.
The east coast storms come after former Tropical Cyclone Jasper made landfall earlier this month, causing flooding and widespread damage in Queensland.
In the country’s west, meanwhile, several regions are fighting fires. A volunteer firefighter was killed while responding to a bushfire, the media reported. Australia is currently in an El Nino, which can cause extremes ranging from wildfires to tropical cyclones and prolonged droughts.

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