Flooding and storms as extreme weather hits countries around the world

By Isaac M December 19, 2023

Hundreds have been rescued from Australian floods, 16 people were killed in storms in South America, and Florida was deluged with five inches of rain – in just some of the wild weather that’s hitting across the world days before Christmas.

People in Queensland, northeastern Australia, clung to roofs amid flooding described as “absolutely devastating” by the state police commissioner.

The airport in Cairns – the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef – was closed on Monday and there were worries the city of 150,000 could lose drinking water.

Three hundred people had to be evacuated from the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal after nine adults and a seven-year-old child were forced to take refuge on a hospital roof.

“Last night, we had an extraordinarily challenging evening, rescuing some 300 people,” said Queensland police commissioner Katarina Carroll.

The flooding was caused by a category two tropical cyclone that lashed the region with rain.

Downpours were easing in Cairns on Monday but severe rain warnings remained in nearby Port Douglas, Daintree, Cooktown, and Hope Vale.

Video footage also showed rescuers helping a struggling wallaby get to safety.

Despite the chaos, no deaths or serious injuries have been reported so far.

Pic: AP
Image:
The navy was helping evacuate people in Cairns. Pic: AP

A road split in half along the Palmerston Highway in far north Queensland
Image:
A road split in half along the Palmerston Highway in far north Queensland

Florida has also had flooding – with a storm dumping up to five inches of rain (12.7cm) across the US state before moving up the Georgia and Carolina coasts.

“Showers and storms continue to impact the east coast,” said the National Weather Service (NWS) on Sunday night.

“Heavy to excessive rainfall could lead to small streams, urban and flash flooding. There is also potential for strong to severe thunderstorms.”

Flood alerts covered a large swathe of Florida, cancelling Christmas events and boat parades, but key airports remained open.

As the storm moved north, about four inches (10cm) of rain fell in Charleston, North Carolina, closing roads and producing the highest non-tropical ride on record.

Two to four inches of rain were also likely in parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, said forecasters.

The far northeast could get flooding – with the NWS warning on Monday that a “powerful storm was racing northward across New England” and that “heavy rain, strong winds and coastal impacts continue”.

The worst rain is expected overnight into Tuesday morning.

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Meanwhile, in Argentina and Uruguay, 16 people have died as an electrical storm brought gusts of over 90mph.

Thirteen were killed when a wall collapsed in the coastal city of Bahia Blanca – with Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei, visiting the site.

A woman also died when a falling branch hit her in the city of Moreno, local media reported.

The capital, Buenos Aires, also had trees and lamp posts blown down by the storm – as President Milei urged people to stay inside on Sunday morning.

Uruguay’s weather service said the two deaths there happened in strong winds on Sunday morning.

Trees and lamp posts were blown over in Buenos Aires
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Trees and lamp posts were blown over in a storm that hit Buenos Aires in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Image:
Buenos Aires, Argentina

India is also suffering from some devastating weather, with heavy rains triggering floods in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Footage shows raging floodwater and people wading knee-deep through submerged villages.

Local media reported the districts of Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli, Tenkasi and Kanniyakumari had been “paralysed” with the navy and coastguard helping with a huge rescue effort.

Power supplies and mobile networks were also said to be out in many places.

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