17 December 2015
by AFR

Tornado winds wreak havoc in Sydney

The storm sweeping over the Sydney CBD on December 16.

A tornado has left a trail of destruction in southern Sydney after hitting the region with winds of up to 213 kilometres an hour, leaving several people with minor injuries and many homes and businesses without roofs.

But a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Australia said the damage so far reported was not unusual for storms at this time of year and the ICA decided not to declare a "catastrophe" which would trigger an emergency response from insurers. He said insurers had received several hundred claims for a few million dollars worth of damage.

The freak storm hit Kurnell in the city's south just after 10.30am on Thursday and moved north, while two other storm cells have battered the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury/Central Coast regions. An evacuation centre for Kurnell residents was set up in the Sutherland Shire and the injured taken to Sutherland Hospital in a stable condition. A spokesman for the State Emergency Service said at least 25 homes were damaged, with some losing their rooves.

Three levels of Westfield Bondi Junction in Sydney's east were evacuated after a partial roof collapse. The desalination plant in Kurnell was evacuated after reportedly sustaining significant damage and workers were also cleared out of the Caltex refinery as a safety precaution.

NSW fire crews went to the Bondi Junction shopping centre where water poured in after a roof collapsed.

Bondi Pizza waiter Michael Seeff said people started shouting "the roof has collapsed" and some customers ran out before paying the bill.

"Water was coming down the sides of the walls and onto the floor," he told AAP.

At Sydney airport Qantas delayed several flights and cancelled some until the storm cleared. Kurnell local Melanie Bowman said tiles had come off her roof and powerlines were down.

"I can see the sky from our garage... I can see lots of parts of roofs in the street," she said.

"It felt just like a cyclone with hail and high winds.

The SES has received more than 417 requests for help with 31 volunteer team working in the Kurnell and Illawarra areas with reports of damage to infrastructure, power lines, trees and roofs.

Ausgrid crews are in Kurnell inspecting damage to the electricity network but tweeted that restoring the network will take time depending on the scale of damage.