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Tornado couple transferred to Brisbane hospital

Bargara gets slammed by a tornado, uprooting trees, downing powerlines and ripping roofs off houses. Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail
Bargara gets slammed by a tornado, uprooting trees, downing powerlines and ripping roofs off houses. Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail Max Fleet

UPDATE 7.30PM: Two people seriously injured after a falling tree smashed into their ute during a vicious tornado in Bargara today have been transferred to a Brisbane hospital.

The male driver and female passenger had been trapped in the ute after the shocking incident about 1pm, and were taken by ambulance to Bundaberg Hospital with serious injuries.

They were later transferred to Brisbane.

"The man is still in a very serious condition," said Bundaberg MP and Police Minister Jack Dempsey, who has been co-ordinating the relief effort from the state disaster centre in Brisbane.

 

UPDATE 6.20PM: There are reports a second tornado has hit Burnett Heads, with one home possibly losing its roof.

It would be the fourth tornado to weave a small, destructive path along the coastal areas of the Bundaberg region this afternoon.

There are also predictions there is a strong possibility of a tornado about 30km west of Maryborough, tracking SSW at a speed of about 50kmh.

5.30PM: FIVE people are in hospital after three tornadoes ripped through the Bundaberg region and emergency services have warned more wild weather is on the way.

Bundaberg Police Superintendent Rowan Bond said just before 1pm, the first tornado struck Bargara.

"It's cut a swathe approximately 500m wide and for about one kilometre inland," Supt Bond said.

The Bargara tornado tore roofs from homes, knocked down trees and powerlines and caused extensive damage to the Woolworths complex and the bowls club.

A second tornado struck soon after at Burnett Heads, tracking inland to Avenell Heights and the Boundary St area, damaging 150 homes and completely destroying two.

Another home was then damaged when a third tornado came in from the coast at Coonarr about 3pm.

"It's just full-scale emergency at this stage," Supt Bond said.

The officer said the tornadoes were forming very quickly and that it was impossible to know if more were on the way.

"We received expert advice from the Bureau of Meteorology that they are unpredictable, so we have to actually deal with them," Supt Bond said.

"And they appear to just be crossing the coast. And when they cross the coast, they do the most substantial damage.

"At the moment we can only deal with them in a reactive manner. We can't proactively pick where they're going to go."

The wild weather was not expected to dissipate, with another 100mm of rain expected to fall overnight.

Five people are in hospital, including two in a critical condition after the car they were travelling in was crushed by a falling Norfolk pine.

Others with lesser injuries are being treated at a makeshift triage centre at St Peter's Hall in Bargara,

"What we're doing is advising people to stay off the road and if people are living in these areas, stay at home," Supt Bond said.

"It's quite dangerous. There are powerlines down and there are trees down which continue to fall due to the high wind events which are not associated wit the tornado."

Power is still out to hundreds of homes and businesses and it is believed it could be up to 48 hours before it will be restored.

Mayor Mal Forman said those needing emergency accommodation could head to the Civic Centre in Bourbong St, where an evacuation centre had been established.

"We are taking every step to make everything safe," he said.

"Our staff are working full time and around the clock."

Mr Forman said the situation was "much worse" than had been predicted.

"No one has seen these types of tornadoes come across this area and it's bewildering," he said.

"But we will be doing everything we can to sort everything out."

Reports of 150 homes damaged in Burnett Heads area

It it is estimated about 150 homes were damaged in Burnett Heads, with two destroyed completely.

Power has been cut to all of Bargara and parts of Burnett Heads, and Ergon Energy cannot confirm when power will be restored.

Police have urged people not to "rubber-neck" and instead to stay indoors as much as possible.

Premier Campbell Newman said the State Government had declared a disaster area, warning the worst for Bundaberg and areas further south was far from over.

Bargara resident Judith McNamara told ABC radio she saw the tornado through her kitchen window and that it left a car in her yard with a tree through it.

''All of a sudden ... I looked up and a tree went flying through the air ... and the car went up.''

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart told media  the twister damaged homes, shops, a bowling club and government buildings.

Mr Newman described the conditions in Wide Bay and central Queensland as a "significant" weather event, and said he also had concerns about flooding on the Burnett River.

He urged parents to keep their children out of local waterways and said he fully backed police who wanted to charge people for flood stupidity.

"If if is flooded, forget it,'' the Premier pleaded.

"This rain event has just started. There will be more rain over the next two days,'' Mr Newman said.

Channel 7 Bundaberg posted this photo on Twitter which shows emergency crews working to free a man trapped in his car after a pine tree fell on the vehicle during a mini-tornado. Pippa Bradshaw/ Channel 7
Channel 7 Bundaberg posted this photo on Twitter which shows emergency crews working to free a man trapped in his car after a pine tree fell on the vehicle during a mini-tornado. Pippa Bradshaw/ Channel 7

Projections from the Bureau of Meteorology, whose website says river and creek rises are being recorded across the entire Upper Burnett River catchment.

Stream levels are rising across the smaller tributaries in the Upper Burnett catchment, while moderate flooding is rising in Three Moon Creek at Cania Dam.

Major flood levels have been exceeded about Ceratodus along the Upper Burnett River, with moderate to major flooding expected further downstream to Eidsvold Bridge and Marriages from late today.

River levels downstream along the Burnett River from Mundubbera through to Bundaberg may exceed the minor flood levels from tomorrow.

Further heavy rainfall is forecast across the Burnett River catchment during the next 24 hours, which may lead to higher levels and more widespread flooding.

Bundaberg Regional Council has also issued Winfield residents with a warning to relocate to higher ground if necessary, with water levels at Baffle Creek feared to rise beyond 1971 record flood levels.

The council has organised for the opening of the Winfield Rural Fire Brigade headquarters to operate as an evacuation centre for local residents who may need to leave their homes.

The Bureau of Meteorology website says fast stream rises are continuing across the Baffle Creek catchment, with major flooding rising at Mimdale, where river levels may exceed the record flood height of 20.12 metres later today.

High river levels are also occurring at Rapleys on Oyster Creek, which may affect the community at Baffle Creek downstream.

River levels are rising at Barnetts Rd, with further rises expected to continue overnight Saturday.
And fast stream rises are occurring across the Kolan River catchment.

Moderate flood levels are rising at Gin Gin Creek, where major flood levels are possible during Saturday afternoon.

Major flood levels are rising downstream at Fred Haigh Dam, with levels likely to continue until at least Sunday morning. Moderate flood levels are rising downstream at Bucca Weir and Gooburrum, with major flood levels expected during the day today.

UPDATE 2.20PM: Paramedics have taken a woman passenger to hospital after she was injured by a tree falling on the ute she was travelling in, but the male driver remains trapped and in a critical condition.

There are also reports the Bargara Bowls Club has lost its roof in the destructive winds.

Tornado rips through Bargara bringing down trees, powerlines and damaging buildings

BREAKING: A MINI tornado has ripped through Bargara today, bringing down powerlines throughout the area, ripping off roofs and causing a serious accident after a fallen tree crashed into a car.

Witnesses say roads are blocked, trees are down, powerlines and power poles have been swept over, and significant damage has been done to the shopping centre after the wild weather struck just before 1pm.

Bargara councillor Greg Barnes said two people had been trapped in a ute after a Norfolk pine on the Esplanade was sent crashing into the cab of the passing vehicle.

Emergency crews are tending to the two people in the car, one of whom is believed to be in critical condition.

Cr Barnes said the best advice for people was to stay away from the area.

"We really want people to stay away - there are powerlines down everywhere," Cr Barnes said.

Deputy Mayor David Batt, who is a representative on the Local Disaster Management Committee, said it appeared the tornado had come off the water and had torn up about a 400m section bound by Bauer, McCavanagh and Davidson Sts.

"We've called an urgent meeting of the disaster comittee," Cr Batt said.

He said council crews had been called in to help where possible.

Cr Batt said the council was also in the process of setting up an evacuation centre at the Bundaberg Civic Centre for those who were not able to return to their houses, as well as transport for people who required it.

The damage has also led to extensive power losses in both Bargara and Bundaberg, with more than 2300 losing electricity in Bargara and almost 1000 in central Bundaberg.

Ergon Energy spokesman Mark Timmerman said crews had been on standby since yesterday in preparation for the wild weather expected this weekend, but he could not say when power would be restored or when equipment could be repaired, due to the ferocity of the weather.

Updates to come throughout the afternoon

Topics:  bargara cyclone oswald editors picks storm tornado



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