The dead include a nine-year-old child who was swept into a surging storm drain on the outskirts of Brisbane.
At least eight people have been killed with one still missing after severe storms battered Australia’s eastern states over the Christmas holidays, bringing down trees and power lines and leaving tens of thousands of households without power.
Police and rescue services in the states of Victoria and Queensland confirmed the deaths of eight people, the youngest a nine-year-old girl who was reportedly swept away in a flooded storm drain on the outskirts of Brisbane, Queensland’s capital.
In Gympie, some 180km (111 miles) north of the city, three women were swept into a storm drain when floodwaters surged through the rural town.
One of the women survived, a 40-year-old woman died and emergency services said there were now “grave concerns” for the other woman. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services deputy commissioner Kevin Walsh said rescue teams would continue scouring the area on Wednesday.
“It’s absolutely tragic news for families in this region at Christmas time,” Gympie Mayor Glen Hartwig told ABC News.
Severe thunderstorms hit the country’s eastern coast on December 25 and December 26, bringing large hailstones, high winds and torrential rain. Rivers flooded and high winds blew off roofs and brought down trees in some of the worst-affected areas.
Eleven people were tossed into the ocean when their boat capsized at sea off Brisbane. Police said on Wednesday that three people had drowned, while eight were rescued from the water and rushed to hospital.
“It has been a very tragic 24 hours due to the weather,” Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll told reporters.
The Bureau of Meteorology has warned that coastal regions in Queensland were still at risk of “dangerous” storms as well as “life-threatening” floods, “giant” hail and “damaging” winds.
Queensland’s power company Energex said the storm brought down more than 1,000 power lines and about 86,000 households remained without electricity.
It was expected to take days to restore power to some people, the company said.
Meanwhile, in Victoria, a woman was found dead late on Tuesday evening after flash floods swamped a regional campground in Buchan, 350km (217 miles) east of the state capital Melbourne.
Two people were also killed by falling trees.
The wild weather also took a toll on the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Less than 24 hours after the 95 boats left Sydney Harbour on December 26 on their way south to the Tasmanian capital, eight entrants had pulled out.
SHK Scallywag, a Hong Kong-owned ship that had been contesting for the lead, was damaged and crew member Geoff Cropley said the sailors had endured “lightning and thunder for hours”.
They were now “hunkered down”, he added, with the weather slowly beginning to improve.
First held in 1945, this year marks the 25th anniversary of a violent storm that tore into the 1998 race fleet, with wild winds whipping up mountainous seas in which six people died, five boats sank and 55 sailors were rescued.
The east coast storms come after former Tropical Cyclone Jasper made landfall earlier this month, causing flooding and widespread damage in Queensland.
In the country’s west, meanwhile, several regions are fighting fires. A volunteer firefighter was killed while responding to a bushfire, media reported.
Australia is currently in an El Nino, which can cause extremes ranging from wildfires to tropical cyclones and prolonged droughts.