Australian storm disrupts everything from internet to shipping

A weekend of wild weather in Australia disrupted everything from the internet to shipping and banking, while pummelling coastal towns and exposing insurance companies to hefty payouts.
Channel NewsAsia 6 Jun 16;

SYDNEY: A weekend of wild weather in Australia disrupted everything from the internet to shipping and banking, while pummelling coastal towns and exposing insurance companies to hefty payouts.

Stocks in Australia biggest insurers, including QBE Insurance, Insurance Australia Group and Suncorp, were lower on the Australian Securities Exchange, with the wider market trading in positive territory.

A clean-up was underway on Monday after a low pressure system that brought flooding and strong winds combined with high tidal surges along much of the Australian east coast started to ease.

Australian websites including Channel Nine, Foxtel Play and Domino's Pizza went down on Sunday when Amazon Web Service's Sydney zone experienced a two-hour power outage, according to Australian website ITnews.

Amazon first warned of the outage affecting Elastic Compute via its status page on Sunday afternoon and an hour later confirmed the issue was related to a power problem, the website said.

An Amazon spokesman declined to comment on the matter but Amazon Web Services’ status page on Monday showed several connectivity issues in Sydney had been resolved.

The New South Wales state emergency services said it had received more than 9,250 calls and had conducted 280 flood rescues.

A spokeswoman for the Port Authority of New South Wales state said the Newcastle port, the world's largest exit point for seaborne thermal coal and used by global miners Glencore, Rio Tinto and Anglo American, was placed on restricted ship movements over the weekend but did not sustain any damage.

Port Kembla, the largest vehicle import hub in Australia remained closed, as the storm moved south, according to the spokeswoman.

Big waves were expected to pound the coast on Monday, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting another day of dangerous conditions, chiefly south of Sydney.

Banks also needed to restore services to automated teller machines that went down.

Mobile, ATM and point-of-sale banking services had been restored after an outage late on Sunday, Westpac said.

“While we aim to ensure continuity of our systems, the severe storm system created disruptions across our network which impacted our services," it said.

Commonwealth Bank said some of its customers were affected by intermittent problems with another ATM provider.

Jan Van Der Schalk, a CLSA analyst said IAG and Suncorp faced few catastrophes in fiscal 2016, ending on June 30.

"Hence, there should be no earnings impact because of this event," Van Der Shalk said.

Insurers said it was too early to tell what the impact might be.

(Reporting by James Regan and Swati Pandey; Editing by Robert Birsel)

- Reuters

Australia flooding forces hundreds into evacuation centres
Torrential rain and high winds battered Australia's east coast on Sunday, leaving up to 26,000 homes without power while flooding forced hundreds of people into evacuation centres.
Channel NewsAsia 5 Jun 16;

MELBOURNE: Torrential rain and high winds battered Australia's east coast on Sunday (June 5), leaving up to 26,000 homes without power while flooding forced hundreds of people into evacuation centres.

Residents from towns along the coast of New South Wales state were evacuated as flood waters rose, while state-owned electricity infrastructure firm Ausgrid said it expected the number of homes without power to rise.

The extreme weather also prompted Sydney Airport to close two of three runways, and forced a Qantas Airways Ltd flight from Shanghai to land at a military air base.

The New South Wales State Emergency Service issued evacuation orders for low-lying areas along the coast and assisted in rescuing stranded residents and livestock.

"NSW forecasters can't recall having a floodwatch for the entire east coast of NSW in the last 30 years," senior meteorologist Adam Morgan of the Bureau of Meteorology's extreme weather section told AFP.

An east-coast low usually affects only a local region intensely, but the current weather system was "very unusual" as it has tracked along the coastline, affecting four states particularly NSW which has a 2,000-kilometre (1,243-mile) long shoreline, Morgan added.

"It's really affected a very large proportion of Australia's population given that a large percentage of Australians live along the eastern seaboard," he said, describing it as an "extreme event".

In a 24-hour period to Sunday morning, the weather bureau said there were widespread rainfalls of between 100-200 millimetres (four-7.9 inches), with the highest-recorded level recorded at Wooli River at 469 millimetres.

Victoria state and the southern island state of Tasmania also experienced a deluge of rain.

At the same time, the east-coast low is coinciding with a king tide, the highest tide of the year, leading to serious erosion on Sydney's northern beaches.

"The fact that we are getting a storm event at the exact same time as those king tides creates this perfect scenario for coastal erosion," Mitchell Harley from the University of New South Wales told AFP, adding that it was the worst erosion in three decades.

While storm conditions usually generate waves of up to eight metres, individual waves of up to 13 metres have been recorded this weekend, he said.

More rain is forecast for NSW later Sunday as the weather system moves south, with fears of localised flooding, with conditions due to ease Monday.

- Reuters/AFP/sk

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