Cyclonic conditions along Australia’s northeast coast caused huge seas, washing away beaches at famous tourist spots, and devastating winds and rain causing extensive flooding, authorities said on Monday.
Main Beach at Byron Bay, a popular tourist destination in northern New South Wales state and home to Hollywood A-listers such as Chris Hemsworth, has all but disappeared, Byron Mayor Simon Richardson told media on Monday.
Television news footage showed a concrete walkway along the beach collapsing into the sea.
“Right now around Byron, we’ve got some severe weather, massive swells; we’re watching our beach disappear,” he said.
“What we’ve got here is yet another event. An extreme weather event is coming on the back of climate change that our community’s dealing with. It’s about the fourth or fifth major event in the last couple of years.”
In recent weeks, the wet conditions contrast with the fierce bushfires that ravaged world heritage listed Fraser Island in Queensland state. On Monday, fire evacuation points on Fraser Island were underwater due to high tides and huge waves.
The heavy band of rain and wild winds, generated by an intense low-pressure system off the southern Queensland coast, battered the heavily-populated border regions between NSW and Queensland for the third day bringing more than 700 millimeters (27.6 inches) of rain in some places over 48 hours.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) warned coastal erosion, hazardous rain, and huge waves off the coast would continue through Monday and urged motorists to stay off the roads.
Australia expects a wetter than usual summer this year due to a La Nina weather phenomenon, typically associated with more significant rainfall and more tropical cyclones. However, a considerable heatwave had sweltered the east just weeks ago.
“Major coastal erosion is ongoing along numerous beaches in the northeast (NSW) and southeast Queensland as spring tides combined with large waves and gale force easterly winds eat away sand from beaches,” BoM meteorologist Dean Narramore said.