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Residents describe terror of fierce weekend storm

Monday February 25, 2013 - 11:21 EDT
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A house destroyed by winds on top of a hill at Kiama. Authorities say a lot of the storm debris is contaminated with asbestos. - ABC

People living on the New South Wales south coast have told of their terror as ferocious winds cut a swathe of destruction through the seaside town of Kiama.

The freak winds hit at around 3:00am on Sunday, affecting a narrow area between Kiama and Jamberoo.

About 170 houses in Kiama have been damaged. Three have so far have been declared uninhabitable with another five still being assessed by structural engineers.

One resident Therese Coogan says it sounded like a train going through her bedroom as she hid in her wardrobe, and she has never experienced anything like it.

"Never in my life and I never want to again," she said.

"Every time I see one of my friends I burst into tears, I'm still shaken, It's awful."

Juliet van Dyke spent hours sheltering under her bed after part of a neighbour's roof fell on her house and the wind then swept through her broken windows.

"I've never been so scared in my whole life, I was terrified. I thought it was the end of the world, I cannot tell you," she said.

"It was like an explosion when simultaneously the roof [blew] off the house and their walls fell down, smashed through two windows, blew them in, picked up everything in its path and then went out another window on the other side."

Another Kiama resident Wendy Rogers says a neighbour's roof has ended up in her front yard.

"I was asleep on the lounge and there was a big bad noise, like a big fireball down the path," she said.

"Then I've opened my front door and I saw the house across the road's tin roof down in our front yard and blocked us all in.

"There's just mess absolutely everywhere, the house across the road's pretty much gone, the one around the corner's pretty much gone as well."

The State Emergency Service (SES) says a lot of the debris in Kiama is contaminated with asbestos.

The Leisure Centre has lost its roof and the surrounding area has been cordoned off because of concerns about the cancer-causing material.

The Deputy Controller of the Kiama SES John Wall says it is working with authorities to ensure its volunteers remain safe during the clean-up.

"We have to work very closely with our colleagues in the New South Wales Fire and Rescue and the hazardous materials or HAZMAT teams to make sure that members of the public as well as our own members are kept safe during the process," he said.

Kiama MP Gareth Ward says disaster funding will be made available for residents affected by the storm.

"Governments of all levels are working together, from local council to state agencies to do all that we can to make sure people are safe and to ensure that amenities are back on as quickly as possible," he said.

Mr Ward says there is crisis accommodation for residents who cannot return to their homes.

The New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell is expected to announce emergency assistance funding when he tours damaged properties today.

Some properties in Sydney, the central coast, the south coast and southern highlands are still without power as a result of the storm.

Power supplier Ausgrid says there are 500 homes on the central coast still without power, about 40 at Galston in Sydney's north, and about 30 at Malabar in the eastern suburbs.

About 550 homes are still affected at Kiama and at Bowral in the southern highlands.

Endeavour Energy says power is expected to be restored to homes in Macquarie Fields at around midday after a large tree fell on two high voltage power lines last night.


© ABC 2013

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