SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Mass flash flooding triggered by Cyclone Yasi caused severe damage to Jewish community buildings in Melbourne.
Floods stormed through several suburbs heavily populated by Melbourne’s Jewish community of 50,000 on the evening of Feb. 4, prompting the closure of the Sephardi Synagogue on Shabbat.
At least two Jewish schools also were flooded, with Bialik College — one of the largest Jewish schools in the country — reportedly closing for two days last week due to damage. The offices of the Australian Jewish News also were partially flooded, according to Yossi Aron, the newspaper’s religious affairs editor.
“The streets were like rivers,” Aron told JTA.
One house in a low-lying area of his street was completely flooded, he said, adding that "The water was waist high.”
Driving rain and wind gusts of up to 80 miles per hour battered Victoria, ripping roofs from buildings, felling trees, and closing roads, schools and other premises. Some suburbs received more than 5.9 inches of rain in 24 hours, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
The flash flooding was caused by the tail end of Yasi, a category 5 storm that ripped through Queensland on Feb. 3, just weeks after rampant floods deluged the state, claiming at least 35 lives.