Storm damage, Oxenford on the Gold Coast
Queensland has been battered by severe storms. Image by JASON O’BRIEN/AAP PHOTOS
  • weather

Girl among seven dead as storms ravage Queensland

December 27, 2023

Seven people have died as severe storms felled trees, swelled rivers and cut power across southeast Queensland.

In the latest tragedy, the body of a 46-year-old woman was recovered near Gympie after a search in the Mary River on Wednesday.

Three women had been “exploring” in a storm drain when they were swept away, police said.

The body of a 40-year-old was also retrieved from the river on Tuesday night, while the third woman managed to get to safety.

Storms first swept across the region on Monday night, leaving more than 120,000 people without power. 

Most of those were on the Gold Coast, where more than 700 power lines were down. 

More severe weather followed on Tuesday evening, with the two women in Gympie and a nine-year-old girl in Brisbane being swept away in stormwater. 

“It is just a tragic set of circumstances but it’s felt particularly hard this time of year when people would prefer to be spending time with their loved ones and family,” Superintendent Paul Algie said.

Storm damage on the Gold Coast
 Wild weather has been blamed for the loss of seven lives including that of a nine-year-old girl. Image by JASON O’BRIEN/AAP PHOTOS 

Three people died after a boat capsized in Moreton Bay on Tuesday afternoon with 11 passengers on board.

Paramedics initially took eight patients to hospital in a stable condition, with one man missing.

His body was found on Wednesday.

A 48-year-old from Alexandra Hills, a 69-year-old from Meridan Plains and a 59-year-old from Tingalpa were among the dead.

Acting Superintendent Andrew Pilotto said conditions on the water were “horrific”.

“The storm was raging when they were rescued,” he said.

“It would have been very difficult to survive in those conditions.”

The body of a nine-year-old girl was found following an extensive police search on Tuesday evening after she was lost in Brisbane stormwater drains.

Christmas storms also accounted for one death on Monday after a 59-year-old woman was fatally struck by a falling tree on the Gold Coast.

Premier Steven Miles said he was heartbroken to hear of the deaths.

“Every Queenslander will have those families in our thoughts and prayers,” he posted to social media.

Mr Miles said Gold Coast residents impacted by storms may be eligible for disaster hardship funding. 

The payments are $180 per person and up to $900 for a family.

“They’re designed really just to get people through these first few days to make sure they have got food and other essentials,” Mr Miles said. 

Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate said his city was “not out of the woods” but forecasts for clearer weather would allow emergency services to attend 800 storm-damaged homes.

Residents were urged to check on vulnerable neighbours and not to attend hospital unless it was an emergency due to a 30 per cent spike in admissions linked to power outages.

“We are assessing all the New Year’s Eve event venues right now because it is going to be very warm and if there’s fire danger (from fireworks) we might have to cancel some,” he said.

Fallen trees in Oxenford
 Forecasters say conditions should ease on Thursday but severe storms could return from Saturday. Image by HANDOUT/ENERGEX 

Queensland Energy Minster Mick de Brenni said power grid crews had been brought back early from flooding in Cairns to help restore services around the Gold Coast.

 “Some of the crews have described the damage to the power system as unprecedented,” he said.

Mr de Brenni said 85,700 homes and businesses in the Gold Coast and Logan areas and about 3000 around Brisbane lost power on Tuesday night but 45,000 of those had services restored.

“There are about 950 instances of power lines down. That is an extraordinarily high number,” he said.

The Bureau of Meteorology said further severe thunderstorms were possible on Wednesday, warning residents along the Queensland coast of large hailstones, damaging winds and heavy rain.

“They’re going to be more isolated than they have been over the last few days,” meteorologist Sarah Scully said. 

The bureau said the worst of the weather should ease on Thursday but severe storms could return to Queensland from Saturday.