|Flood waters caused by Tropical Cyclone Grant wash a freight train off a bridge in Northern Territory, Australia [AFP]
Violent summer weather has cut off parts of northern Australia from the rest of the country. It is of course the festive season and one unwelcome Christmas gift was the wild weather that battered the country on Sunday.
Holiday revelers in Arnhem Land were forced to take cover as Tropical Cyclone Grant strengthened off the Tiwi Islands to the north of Darwin.
Many small communities along the north coast suffered the full force of the storm, however Darwin was spared the worst of the conditions. Those affected did include Minjilang, a community of about 300 people on Croker Island where the winds touched 120 kph.
The cyclone’s monstrous rains also managed to derail a giant freight train as a bridge collapsed into the Edith River, cutting off the north-south corridor. About 50m of track was washed away in the flooding.
More than 380mm of rain fell in the region on Monday, Boxing Day, washing away sections of the Stuart Highway cutting road access to the north of Katherine. It was here that the Ghan passenger train was forced to stop, leaving 200 passengers stranded and unable to continue their journey by either rail or road.
All this came after ex-Tropical Cyclone Fina had whipped up huge four metre waves along the popular northeast coast, creating dangerous surf conditions which forced the tourist beaches to close. The heavy swell from the system has been pounding the Gold Coast since Christmas Eve. Although the beaches have now re-opened, people are still being warned to swim strictly between the warning flags.
Elsewhere, planes were diverted and delayed at Melbourne, Victoria after thunderstorms, hail and even a tornado swept through Australia’s second largest city, causing flash floods and hail damage. By Tuesday, about 4000 people in the state had requested help in the wake of the storms.
The weather is now starting to settle down for much of Australia but those in the north do remain on alert. The remnants of Cyclone Grant are likely to redevelop as it moves across the Gulf of Carpentaria during Thursday and Friday suggesting a lively end to the year for northern Queensland.