The north-east Australian city of Townsville could face tornadoes, just as it is being hit by devastating floods, authorities said Sunday.
‘Atmospheric conditions are ripe for tornadoes and waterspouts around Townsville,’ the Bureau of Meteorology in Queensland said on Twitter. ‘Damaging to destructive winds are possible in these intense storm cells.’ The agency said Townsville had broken its record for the wettest seven days in a row, with 1,012 mm of rain falling by the end of Saturday compared to the previous record of 886 millimetres in 1998.
It warned that further flash flooding was to be expected as rain continued to swell the city's Ross River Dam, which is at more than 200 per cent of its capacity.
Queensland police said spillway gates may be opened fully later Sunday and warned residents to stay away from riverbanks and move to higher ground.
The national broadcaster ABC reported that thousands of homes had been abandoned in the suburbs of Townsville and that evacuations were being conducted.
It also quoted Townsville disaster coordinator Steve Munro as saying around 400 to 500 of the city's 82,000 homes were currently affected by flooding.
‘The modelling says what it is going to say - it could move up to the 10,000, 20,000 [homes]. We don't want to get to that stage [but] we can't control that,’ Munro said.
The extreme rain comes as other parts of Australia suffer drought and wildfires. The country recorded its hottest month ever in January, with mean temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius.
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