Building partially collapses in Kurri Kurri amid severe weather

Update:

LUKE Apthorpe will wake up feeling lucky on Tuesday.

The Kurri Kurri business owner was looking out the front of his shop at a storm battering the town when a jagged hunk of wood speared through the window, missing him by centimetres.

“I rang my brother and said ‘I wasn’t meant to die today,” a relieved Mr Apthorpe said shortly after the storm, which tore through Kurri at about 2pm on Monday. 

The jagged shard of wood was part of a clump of debris, including a section of the Kurri Kurri Community Centre’s roof, that was blown across from Lang St to Barton St by fierce winds. 

“I went to look out the window because the noise of the storm was just incredible,” Mr Apthorpe said.

“All of a sudden a lump of timber flew through the window right next to me. My heart is still going.”

Mr Apthorpe shrugged off damage to the building, which is estimated to cost thousands of dollars, saying it was “lucky no one was killed”. 

The storm caused chaos throughout Kurri when it suddenly struck. Two people received non-life-threatening injuries when the roof partially collapsed at the community centre, while power lines and roofs were down and damaged across the town. 

By 4pm, the State Emergency Service had already registered more than 100 calls for assistance. 

The Kurri Kurri Ambulance Practice Hall was one of the worst damaged, with the entire roof torn off the heritage building. 

“It was just like a tornado and whoosh, off went the roof,” Elana Lawrence, who was in the hall at the time of the storm, told Fairfax Media. 

The centre, which provides after school and holiday care for children, was empty except for Ms Lawrence.

Kurri resident Cheryle Shoesmith lives on Main Road leading into the town. Winds downed multiple trees along the stretch of homes, damaging multiple houses and leaving a mass of vegetation to be cleared. 

“It was cyclonic, the rain was going sideways,” Ms Shoesmith said. 

The longtime resident said it wasn’t the first time the area had been struck hard by storms, but Monday’s one was “just horrific”. 

Amidst the gloomy aftermath, Ms Shoesmith praised the swift reaction of emergency services and fellow community members. 

“There’s a fellow up the road with a chainsaw and everyone has come straight away to help with the clean up,” she said. 

The impact of the storm is likely to continue into the week, with Kurri Kurri Public School announcing it would close on Tuesday due to storm damage, while Fire and Rescue NSW inspected the community centre on Monday afternoon to assess its stability. 

Earlier:

EMERGENCY services have converged on Kurri Kurri after a community centre partially collapsed during severe weather.

Crews were called to the Kurri Kurri Community Centre on Lang Street shortly after 2pm.

Firefighters said the building’s roof had caved in during a thunderstorm that also brought down trees in the area.

Paramedics have transported two people to hospital with minor injuries.

Everyone who was inside the Lang Street building has been accounted for, Fire and Rescue NSW said.

The Kurri Kurri Ambulance Hall was also stripped of its tin roof in the storm, while trees had also fallen on multiple cars.

Anthony James said the wild weather “lasted no more than six minutes”.

“it was the intense wind that ripped everything apart,” he said.

“The emergency service reacted very quickly and were on scene almost instantly a bunch of people were taken away in an ambulance at the community centre where the roof collapsed.”

Power lines were also downed on Ninth Street and Government Road in Weston. 

Ausgrid said 2300 homes were without power in Weston, Pelaw Main, Kurri Kurri and Mulbring.

A further 800 homes had no power in Maitland. 

Police and firefighters were on the scene, with crews undertaking damage assessments in the town.

A HAZMAT unit and rescue squad have also been tasked to Kurri Kurri as a precaution.

It follows a severe weather warning that was issued by the Bureau of Meteorology that was issued 30 minutes prior to the storm rolling through Kurri Kurri.

“Thunderstorms are likely to produce damaging winds and large hailstones in the warning area over the next several hours,” the bureau said.

Paramedics urged motorists to take care in the wet weather.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education said Kurri Kurri Public School would be closed on Monday due to storm damage.