Australia, Victoria, Rutherglen
March 21– At least two tornadoes have ripped across Victoria, Australia’s south-east state, injuring several people and damaging a number of structures, officials said.
The twisters moved between Cobram and Yarrawonga in north-east Victoria Wednesday about 8 p.m., the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
Lachland Quick, of the State Emergency Service, said that there were several reports of injuries.
“I know there are quite a lot of holiday homes that are unoccupied and that may have assisted us with fewer injuries,” Quick said. “But certainly at his stage it’s very busy up there and we are issuing further volunteer units up there at the moment.”
The tornado has reportedly injured 20 people and left some towns looking like a bomb has exploded.
The fierce storms hit the Murray River towns of Bundalong, Yarrawonga, Mulwala, Rutherglen, Koonoomoo and Cobram.
Moira Shire Mayor Brian Keenan says he’s never seen such extensive damage in his four decades as a SES and CFA brigade leader.
He says several houses at Bundalong, home to about 300 people, have been destroyed and most others are damaged.
“It is absolutely incredible. You would think an atom bomb went off,” Keenan said.
He said massive trees were ripped out of the ground and several hundred metres of power lines had fallen.
“How there wasn’t lives lost is beyond me,” he said
Further west, Barooga Post Office manager Max Steward said the storm lasted only five minutes and ripped the back verandah off, blowing it about 30 metres into the street.
“It just was like a mini tornado,” he said.
“A couple of houses down the road… were literally blown apart by the force of the wind.”
Steward, 65, said there was no warning the storm was about to strike.
“It just came out of nowhere just like a low-flying aeroplane – it just roared though,” he said.
He said after five minutes the wind died down.
“You can look out our window here and see the bush between here and Cobram and it’s just like a lawnmower has gone across the top of the trees – trees that were 60 foot high, or they were. Unbelievable it was.”
Barooga Sports Club assistant chief executive Greg Ferguson said hundreds of trees at the Cobram Barooga Golf Club were uprooted and flung across the fairways.
Part of the club roof was torn off, the windows blown-in and a section of the ceiling collapsed.
“There is a section of a roof in one of our trees near the first tee that has got to be about six or seven metres square,” Ferguson said.
One third of the building remained closed however one course remained open, he said.
Twenty people were injured, with most treated at the Yarrawonga Hospital, while four with more serious injuries were flown to Melbourne.
State Control Center forecaster Tony Bannister said tornadoes of such force were not unheard of but rare for Victoria.
He said initial reports suggested the tornado would have involved winds of between 180 and 250km/h.
Two men in their 50s were flown to Melbourne hospitals in critical conditions.
Both were suffering head injuries while one also had pelvic and abdominal injuries.
The last time a tornado, rare for Down Under, hit the east coast of Australia, and doing millions of dollars in damage was in 2007.
In 2007, the twister hit Friday in an area on the border between New South Wales and Queensland, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Jimmy Deguara, a Sydney-based storm chaser who had moved north for the storm season, told the newspaper that the tornado appeared about 4 p.m. during a thunderstorm accompanied by high winds and hail.
He described the funnel appearing in the bottom of thunderstorm clouds.
“I was 150 to 100 meters from the eye of the tornado. You could hear the roar of it,” he said.
In Dunoon, a town in the far northern part of New South Wales, the tornado blew out the walls of the Anglican church, left about 20 homes without roofs and gutted two classrooms at the elementary school.
Tornadoes are unusual in Australia, at least in the populated areas on its coasts.