(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
TULLY HEADS, Australia — The cyclone that tore through Australia's northeast this week brought fresh misery to people in the south on Saturday, causing flash flooding in the second-largest city even as residents in far distant towns returned to ruined homes.
Storm batters Australian coast towns; no deaths
Massive cyclone bears down on north Australia coast
The tropical system that was Cyclone Yasi, which tore through the northeast earlier this week, was still churning over central Australia and making a series of thunderstorms over the southern city of Melbourne and other large towns in Victoria state much worse, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
More than 7 inches (175 millimeters) of rain fell in just a few hours overnight Friday in some Melbourne neighborhoods and winds gusting to 80 mph (130 kph) knocked down trees, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
Drains were overwhelmed, causing flash flooding that covered streets and swamped some homes. The State Emergency Service said 84 people were rescued from cars that stalled in flooded streets, or from inundated properties.
A 26-year-old English tourist was in critical condition in hospital after a branch fell on her tent, SES spokesman David Tucek said.
Many parts of Australia have suffered a summer of awful weather, including pounding rains across northeastern Queensland state that caused the nation's worst flooding in decades, killing 35 people and causing an estimated $5.6 billion damage.
Yasi ripped across the coast in northeast Queensland state on Wednesday night, tearing apart dozens of homes and damaging hundreds more, cutting power to tens of thousands of people and flattening millions of dollars worth of crops. Just one death was reported.
Police and army personnel moved through the storm-savaged coastal town of Tully Heads on Saturday, going door-to-door accounting for residents.
Officials spray painted "No Go" as a warning on the worst-hit homes. A few houses were reduced to rubble. A layer of brown sludge covered the ground, leaving a sickening smell wafting throughout the community.
The massive surge of water ripped through homes, taking out walls and pushing resident's belongings into other people's houses and yards.
Residents spent Saturday sifting through the wreckage and dragging people's possessions back to their owners.
"I'll take my container back when you're done with it!" Ian Barrett, 55, joked to his neighbor. Barrett's huge blue shipping container lay in the man's yard — about 300 feet (90 meters) from where it once stood.
Barrett's beachfront house was still standing, but was nearly empty inside. The waves ripped everything from the home: furniture, toys, appliances.
His 11-year-old daughter Natalie's bed lay a third of a mile (half a kilometer) down the road. The only thing left on the walls was the family's flat-screen TV, a recent purchase.
The family fled along with most of the community the day before the storm hit, and were now staying with friends.
"We're not gonna rebuild here," Barrett said. "We'd never be able to go to sleep again at night."
"Don't ask me where my fridge is — haven't got a clue," said Peter Burt, 45, as he and son Marcus, 13, stood by their gutted home.
His TV lay 500 yards (meters) away in a field. One of his large wooden cabinets rested on a stranger's red car that had been deposited in his backyard. He and Marcus had dragged the few remaining ruined items out to a pile by the street: CDs, a washing machine, a computer, a coffee jar, sodden photos.
Verrent and La Fauci had sheltered at a relative's house during the storm and needed to use a chainsaw to hack their way back to the community. The roads were flooded and they made the last part on foot, slogging through hip-deep water.
Nearly everything inside was smashed or swept away. The house largely
stripped to its frame and roof, and the walls had been blown out. A tree
lay in their bedroom, glass was everywhere. The only adornment left on
the living room wall was a Metallica poster.
"I knew they could bear the storm," La Fauci said with a grin.
Officials were amazed the death toll was not higher. The storm thrashed
the coast with up to 170 mph (280 kph) winds and sent waves crashing
ashore two blocks into seaside communities, as tens of thousands of
people huddled in evacuation centers.
Electricity and phone service were gradually being restored, and some
4,000 troops were marshaled to help clear roads of downed trees, power
lines and twisted metal roofs torn from homes. Efforts were hampered by
drenching rain in many parts of the disaster zone.