From internet to shipping, Australian storm cause large-scale disruption

A sign is displayed on a beach that was closed due to dangerous surf conditions at Burleigh Heads on Queensland's Gold Coast, Australia, June 5, 2016. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Sydney Jun 06, 2016, 06.03 AM (IST)
A weekend of rough weather in Australia disrupted everything from the internet to shipping and banking, while pummeling coastal towns and exposing insurance companies to hefty payouts.

Stocks in Australia biggest insurers, including QBE Insurance, Insurance Australia Group and Suncorp, were lower on the Australian Securities Exchange, with the wider market trading in positive territory.

A clean-up was underway today after a low pressure system, which brought flooding and strong winds with high tidal surges along the Australian east coast, started to ease.

Australian websites, including Channel Nine, Foxtel Play and Domino's Pizza, went down on Sunday when Amazon Web Service's Sydney zone experienced a two-hour power outage, according to the Australian website ITnews.

Amazon first warned of the outage affecting Elastic Compute via its status page on Sunday afternoon, and an hour later confirmed the issue was related to a power problem, the website said.

An Amazon spokesman declined to comment on the matter, but Amazon Web Services’ status page today showed several connectivity issues in Sydney had been resolved.

The New South Wales state emergency services said it had received more than 9,250 calls and had conducted 280 flood rescues.

A spokeswoman for the Port Authority of New South Wales state said the Newcastle port, the world's largest exit point for seaborne thermal coal and which is used by global miners Glencore, Rio Tinto and Anglo American, was placed on restricted ship movements over the weekend but did not sustain any damage.

Port Kembla, the largest vehicle import hub in Australia, remained closed as the storm moved south, according to the spokeswoman.

Big waves are expected to pound the coast today, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting another day of dangerous conditions, chiefly south of Sydney.

Banks also needed to restore services to automated teller machines that went down.

Mobile, automated teller machines (ATM) and point-of-sale banking services had been restored after an outage late on Sunday, Westpac, an Australian bank and financial services provider said. 

“While we aim to ensure continuity of our systems, the severe storm system created disruptions across our network which impacted our services," it said.

Commonwealth Bank said some of its customers were affected by intermittent problems with another ATM provider.

Jan Van Der Schalk, a CLSA analyst, said IAG and Suncorp faced few catastrophes in fiscal 2016, ending on June 30.

"Hence, there should be no earnings impact because of this event," Van Der Shalk said.

Insurers said it was too early to tell what the impact might be.