Weather News

Sunshine Coast faces massive clean-up as parts of shopping centre ceiling collapses during storm

By Jacqui Street, Amy Sheehan, Meg Bolton, and Owen Jacques, Thursday May 13, 2021 - 06:46 EST
ABC image
Crews are working to clear roads around the Sunshine Coast after a hailstorm tore through the region overnight. - ABC

Multiple stores in the Sunshine Coast region's largest shopping centre are closed for business this morning after torrents of water flowed through the roof, damaging stock and electronics.

A book shop, shoe store, clothing store, jeweller and coffee shop on the top floor of the newer section of the Sunshine Plaza have been severely water damaged.

Parts of the ceiling in the Kmart store collapsed last night under the weight of the water, although the store has reopened to customers this morning.

The ABC understands retailers in the Plaza, which re-launched after a $440 million redevelopment in 2019, have repeatedly complained about leaks in the centre.

Staff have told ABC Sunshine Coast they couldn't open the doors this morning when they arrived because the water was ankle deep and they had feared there was electrical damage. 

Staff concerned about leaks for months

One retailer said several store owners had been complaining to centre owner Lendlease about "leaks around the plaza" for months.

She said yellow bins were often put out by management to catch any rain leaking through the roof. 

Lendlease Centre Manager, Michael Manwaring said the group was "working with specialists on an ongoing program of works to maintain our vast roof area."

"Last night's extreme weather event caused isolated damage to several stores in the centre," he said.

"We've cordoned off the affected areas and almost all stores are open and the centre continues to trade as normal."

Maroochydore and Nambour were the two areas most affected by the storms, with some people still trapped in their homes as they waited for crews to clear debris.

The storm whipped through the region on Wednesday night, bringing intense winds and hail the size of golf balls.

Powerlines down, leaving businesses struggling

A family of four, including two children, were trapped on a Nambour street after a tree crushed their ute, bringing down live powerlines at the same time.

It took hours to free the family, as energy provider Energex worked to cut power to the area, so Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews could access the vehicle.

Anthony Jeffress owns the pie shop near where the tree fell on the family's car and said he was relieved no-one was injured. 

"The father had the good sense ? knowing that there were powerlines ? to keep the family in the vehicle."

Mr Jeffress said the extended power outages overnight and today meant he would lose stock and sales worth more than $1,000.

"Little bit worried about the business not being able to open today. Without the air conditioning running and the fridges being inoperable, we certainly will incur some losses.

"[But] life and limb is more important. Stock can be replaced."

Arundell Avenue is still closed to commuters, with at least eight powerlines still down and traffic lights out in the area.

Residents in the area have also been told they still cannot leave their homes as Energex continues to clear the area.

No-one in those homes has been injured.

Dozens of dead lorikeets

Wildlife SEQ volunteers rushed to Picnic Point on Wednesday evening to help nearly 200 injured rainbow lorikeets.

President Melanie Penman said the organisation received a call from a man who was trying to save 10 lorikeets with "another 15 deceased".

"I knew that at that point, that we all needed to band together and get out there as soon as possible because there was certainly going to be a lot more than that."

Volunteers and locals walked the streets through the evening with baskets, torches and towels looking for birds, ensuring they weren't left in the cold, wet weather overnight with head injuries.

Wildlife SEQ counted 174 birds on Wednesday evening with "just over half would be deceased".

"We sorted out the good and the bad. And then we rushed them straight to Australia Zoo where  they immediately triage them and medicated them for pain relief," Ms Penman said.

Volunteers collected more birds on Thursday morning after sunrise.

Ms Penman said the storm's early evening arrival was the perfect timing for the birds to be bundled together.

"It was just a really bad place, and a bad time for the lorikeets given the size of the hail."

Ms Penman said she had never seen such an influx of one species.

"Nearly 200 lorikeets is a huge number to come in at once. So everyone's exhausted, I can tell you."

Storm could have been 'catastrophic'

Leah Morton in Forest Glen said the violent weather knocked down fences.

"It was very quick, but very ferocious. I've never seen winds and hail like that ever in the 10 years since we've lived here," she said.

"Multiple trees just snapped and trees down across the road on cars ? very, very wild.

"Lots of trampolines went flying through the air and things like that, so everyone's waking up to it this morning.

"The thunder and everything wasn't too bad, but it was more than the wind and the hail. That was just unbelievable.

"It would have been catastrophic had it been bigger hail."

Denis Aarons owns Nambour Car Service on a road that has been closed for much of Wednesday.

He had been forced to turn away customers, as he waited for the area to be cleared.

"I've had to call all my customers and cancel all my jobs for today," he said. 

"I've got four employees here and we've just got to do what we can do ? no power or lights.

"It will definitely have a financial impact on us 100 per cent. 

"It depends how long it's out for but I'm paying wages for a day for six employees in total where they can't do anything."

Counting the cost as clean-up begins

Nambour was not the only part of the region left in the dark, although it was the worst hit by power outages.

Across the region, more than 8,800 were without power last night, with 2,891 of those in Nambour.

Properties also lost power in Buderim, Cooloolabin, Diddillibah, Forest Glen, Highworth, Hunchy, Ilkley, Image Flat, Kiamba, Kiels Mountain, Kallangur, Kuluin, Kunda Park, Kureelpa, Mons, Rosemount, Woombye, and Yandina.

By lunchtime Wednesday, power had been restored to most areas.

Some roads have been shut in Nambour, Kunda Park, Forest Glen, Buderim and Cotton Tree. 

State Emergency Service local controller Sally Bloomfield said most of the call-outs for her 10 crews last night were for "structural" issues where the hail had smashed skylights and come through roofs.

"It seems to be that we had a significant amount of damage from that hail that came across," she said.

She said crews attended 114 call-outs as a result of the storm, and teams today were continuing to clear debris. 

The Sunshine Coast Council is offering free green waste dumping at its tips in Buderim and Nambour until Monday.


© ABC 2021

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