Friday, 30 November 2012

Western Australia: weather chaos

One dead, thousands in the dark after night of wild weather

29 November, 2012

A man has died after a large tree fell on his caravan in Waroona overnight.
The man is believed to have been inside the caravan, parked at the Lake Navarino Forest Resort camping area about 100 kilometres south of Perth, when a large tree fell on the van about 3am.

Three people were trapped in the caravan after the tree fell.

According to the resort’s website, it is nestled in the natural bushland between Waroona and Dwellingup.

It is inside state forest and offers self-contained cottages, cabins, caravan sites and camping areas.

Emergency services personnel worked to free the trio, managing to safely free two of them. But a third person, believed to be a 48-year-old man, died at the scene.

A four-year-old boy was killed at the same camping site in 2005 after a 30-metre, white ant-riddled, redgum tree fell on his family's tent while they were sleeping.

Rough seas have left a barge carrying 1800 tonnes of construction equipment grounded near Cervantes.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the barge was being towed by a tug from Perth to Barrow Island when the connection between the tug and the barge came undone about 7.30pm on Wednesday night.

Although an emergency connection was initially established, it also came undone about 4am.

The Department of Transport's oil spill response coordination unit is monitoring the barge.

The unit's coordinator, Matt Verney said it had grounded approximately three kilometres north west of the Cervantes town jetty.

The owners of the vessel have begun salvage operations.

"Efforts are currently focused on minimising the risk of pollution and also response preparations," Mr Verney said.

As well as construction equipment the 90 metre barge was carrying heavy vehicles, aerosol paint cans and 1000 litres of diesel fuel and 1000 litre of hydraulic fluid.

A small boat carrying four people also had to be rescued after attempting to brave massive ocean swells off Rottnest Island.

The small vessel had broken down in near six-metre swells and, after being spotted by a ranger, was towed back to Rottnest's main jetty with all four passengers safe and well.

Despite warnings of the dreadful conditions, the 21-year-old skipper told police he had wanted to get home to Perth and thought there was a calm period to venture out.

In fact the boat's engine stalled 2 kilometres from shore, and he needed rescue.

Meanwhile thousands of school leavers look set to be stranded on Rottnest Island on Thursday, as weather conditions prevent ferry services running.
Seven metre swells are forecast for the waters off Fremantle.

Across the state bout 7500 homes remain without power this morning as gusty winds continue to lash the metropolitan area and South West of the state.

Damage has been widespread – Wanneroo, Stirling, the CBD, Rockingham, Cockburn and Mandurah were the worst hit.
The severe weather warning for the metropolitan area has been cancelled.
The left northbound lane of the Kwinana Freeway remains closed between Canning Bridge and the Narrows Bridge, due to a storm surge from the Swan River currently flowing onto the left lane.

Authorities are urging drivers to be extra vigilant this morning, with fallen trees, debris and localised flooding closing some roads and traffic lights blacked out throughout the metropolitan area.

The State Emergency Service has responded to more than 220 calls for help in the metro area.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services expected the number of calls for assistance to increase dramatically at first light this morning.
At the height of the storm, more than 50,000 homes lost power.

Western Power crews have worked through the night in the wet and windy conditions, restoring power to the worst affected suburbs in the Perth Hills, where many homes are still in the dark.

Repair crews are responding to more than 500 faults this morning, more than 200 reports of fallen wires, which remain the top priority for Western Power crews.

A deep low pressure system continued to affect the South West of the state overnight, with widespread damaging winds of 100km/h, and gusts of up to 125km/h reported.

Wind gusts of up to 117km/h were recorded at Rottnest Island yesterday, with Cape Leeuwin recording 111km/h and Cape Naturaliste recording gusts of 107km/h.

In its 7am update, Western Power said there were widespread faults on the network, mainly caused by debris and tree branches flung into powerlines.
The suburbs and towns worst affected by power outages this morning are Orelia, St James, Belmont, Bassendean, Bayswater, Yokine, Myalup, Busselton and Kewdale.

Current warnings

The Bureau of Meterology advises that as at 4.43am, a deep low pressure system lay to the south of the state.

Those living south-west of a line from Mandurah to Katanning to Israelite Bay should take action and stay safe with more bad weather on its way.
The bad weather will continue to move south of a line from Cape Leeuwin to Katanning to Israelite Bay by later this morning.

The warning applies to people in, near and between Mandurah, Bunbury, Busselton, Margaret River, Bridgetown, Katanning, Albany and Esperance and surrounding areas.

Dangerous surf conditions are likely, which could cause significant beach erosion.

Businesses, schools hit by storm

Avon Vale Primary School will be closed today after receiving significant structural damage yesterday.

Samson Primary School received significant damage to to the roof of an undercover area.

When the storm hit the metro area yesterday, the newly renovated Terrace Hotel and under-renovation Beatty Park Aquatic Centre reported damage.

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