A young mother was left battered and bruised after using her body to shield her baby daughter from giant hailstones during a massive storm.
Fiona Simpson was driving in southern Queensland, Australia, when the storm suddenly swept through on Thursday.
The hailstones, some as big as tennis balls, smashed her car windows and forced Ms Simpson to put her own body on the line to protect her daughter.
The mum posted pictures of the lurid bruises across her shoulders and arms on Facebook. “I’ve learnt my lesson today, never drive in a hail storm!” she wrote under the pictures.
“I covered my infant with my body to stop her from getting badly injured. My entire back, arms and head are badly bruised. I’m just so relieved that my daughter and grandmother are alright.
As soon as Ms Simpson pulled her car over because of the heavy rain, she heard a loud bang and realised the back windows of her car, where her young child was sitting, had been destroyed by the hail.
Ms Simpson and her child were taken to hospital for checks after the dramatic incident (Fiona Simpson/Facebook)
"It was so scary but there was no time to be afraid … It just all happened so fast,” she later told Australia’s ABC broadcaster. The quick-thinking mum leapt into the back seat to cover her daughter from the deluge.
“I looked down and I could see she was screaming but I couldn’t even hear her, that’s how loud it was.”
Once the worst of the storm had moved on she managed to drive her shredded car to a nearby house so she could call for an ambulance.
“It wasn’t until I got in the ambulance that I realised that if I didn’t do that [my daughter] could have been seriously hurt or killed, anything could have happened,” she reflected. “I’m just a mum – you do anything you can to protect your child no matter what, even at your own expense and I would do it again.”
The huge storm sweeping across Queensland has been supercharged by sucking in several tornadoes while it lashes the north-eastern Australian state.
As well as large hailstones, strong winds reaching 60mph have caused widespread damage, bringing down trees and power lines. In some areas as much as 100mm of rain fell in less than 24 hours.
There have also been incidents of flash flooding; authorities said they had received more than 300 calls for helps, including one from a driver who was trapped by a fallen tree.
Rescuers have been battling with chainsaws to cut through the splintered trees to reach those, especially vulnerable elderly people, cut off by the storm.
The director of Queensland’s State Emergency Service, Brian Cox, said his volunteers had encountered a number of heart-wrenching scenes. “People are so upset with losing their roofs and property being damaged … it’s a very emotional time for them,” he told the Courier Mail newspaper.
“We are asking people to be patient because we’ve actually got to navigate through the debris [and] roads to get to some of these areas first.”
“It’s timely reminder that we are going into storm season these events do happen. We strongly recommend people have a plan. Another important thing is to look after those elderly or more vulnerable within your street and neighbourhood.”
A string of small rural towns were among those struck by a devastating tornado, which ripped off roofs, devastated crops in the field and even killed 800 chickens.
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The chicken farmer, Leanne Geri, fought back the tears while she told ABC what had happened. “It’s been very, very dry and then this storm is just devastating,” she said.
“Might have lost 800, it’s hard to tell. There’s quite a few dead down there. They got slammed, or wet and cold, and died. We’ll have to go down and pick all of those up and compost them.”
The furious winds lifted the farm’s sheds off the ground, leaving contorted sheet metal scattered across the fields along with broken solar panels. The damage bill was likely to be as high as $300,000 (£161,000), Ms Geri said.
The president of Queensland Dairy Farmers, Brian Tessmann, said the storm also tore through his farm, lifting the roof of his home and dairy and sending his possessions swirling through the air. “It was bedlam from there, trying to hold doors shut, and water coming through the ceiling, and things flying through the air,” he told the ABC. “It was quite something.”
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