Six Dead, Apartments Evacuated in Australian Coast Storms

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Six Australians have died since Friday and about 60 were evacuated from apartment blocks threatened by flooding in Sydney Saturday night, as rainstorms continued a two-week battering of the nation’s east coast.

Downpours eroded soil at a construction site in western Sydney’s Harris Park, where residents of three adjacent blocks at risk of collapse were evacuated as a precaution, New South Wales state police said in a website statement. On South Ballina Beach in the state’s north, a six-year-old boy died after being swept away while walking along the waterline with his father and older brother, police said, adding to five deaths in neighboring Queensland state Friday.

A fortnight of storms along the coast have temporarily halted the rail network serving Newcastle, the world’s biggest coal-export harbor, and will cost the insurance arm of Suncorp Group Ltd. about A$135 million ($106 million).

“The amount of rain that came down here was unheard of,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told media in Brisbane Sunday. “We want to make sure that people can pick up their lives and they can rebuild.”

In Caboolture, an outlying suburb north of Brisbane where four of the six deaths occurred, as much as 36 centimeters (14 inches) of rain fell in 24 hours. Numerous locations in a swathe of country from Noosa north of Brisbane to Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales state received more than 10 centimeters of rain in the same period, according to maps published on the Bureau of Meteorology website.

Iron Ore Hub

Flooding may develop over the weekend in river catchments around the Port Hedland Coast and the De Grey River, the bureau said in a separate statement Saturday. It issued an alert for the West Pilbara district and said that flooding may develop into Sunday. A flood warning for the Onslow Coast and Lyndon-Minilya catchments in the western Pilbara was canceled Sunday and the bureau said floodwaters would ease over the next few days.

The Pilbara is the world’s biggest producer of iron ore, and Port Hedland is the largest export harbor for the steelmaking commodity. Port Hedland and Dampier, the country’s #2 ore-export harbor, remained open while Ashburton was closed, the Pilbara Ports Authority said on its website.

In Caboolture, a man in his 70s, a woman in her 30s and an eight-year-old boy were pronounced dead at the spot where their car was reported to have been swept away at about 5:30 p.m. local time Friday. About 6 a.m. Saturday morning police recovered the body of a 49-year-old man who was in a separate car in the same incident.

About 3 a.m. Saturday, police recovered the body of a 75-year-old man whose car was swept away by flood waters in the nearby suburb of Burpengary, they said in another statement.

“This is the tragic outcome of where vehicles have entered flooded roads,” Queensland police Inspector Lee Jeffries told reporters Saturday in Caboolture. “I’d like to never see these types of incidents occur again.”

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