Gale force winds cause chaos across NSW

Gale force winds have wreaked havoc across NSW shattering windows, cutting power to tens of thousands of homes and causing commuter chaos, including the cancellation of more than 100 flights at Sydney Airport.

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But conditions are expected to ease overnight, after wind gusts on Friday reached 106 km/h on Sydney Harbour, in Nowra and at Port Kembla.

The SES on Friday received more than 500 calls for help with winds so strong they blew the roof off a business in Wollongong leading to 80 people being evacuated.

In Gosford, a tree fell onto a house trapping a woman in a wheelchair, while at International House Sydney at Barangaroo three windows shattered some five storeys up.

The building was evacuated but there were “no patients”, an ambulance spokeswoman told AAP.

Most of the damage was on the state’s east coast with the SES responding to trees falling on roads, powerlines and properties in the Illawarra, Central Coast, south Sydney and the city’s innerwest.

However, conditions are easing with a SES spokeswoman saying the worst was over for Sydney.

“Sydney has seen the worst of the damaging winds today and we are looking at easing winds to continue until Saturday morning,” she said.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning on Friday for damaging winds in the Hunter, Central Tablelands, Sydney and the Illawarra.

A warning was also issued for hazardous surf conditions across the state’s entire coastline over the weekend.

“It will still be very windy on Saturday, just not as windy as Friday,” a bureau spokesman told AAP.

Domestic flights in and out of Sydney were affected by the weather with planes only able to use one runway and travellers facing 60 to 90-minute delays on average, airport officials said.

Power was also cut to Sydney, Illawarra and Central Coast homes and businesses.

Emergency crews from Ausgrid had to restore power to more than 50,000 customers.

The distributor says crews are still responding to 400 reports of hazards on the electricity network including trees on powerlines and downed lines.

Endeavour Energy said 11,000 customers lost power and by the evening some 2000 were still without supply.

Friday’s weather warning comes two days after two walls at separate Sydney building sites collapsed in high winds.

A 30-year-old worker was killed and a teenager received critical head injuries on Wednesday.

Police kill 5 after deadly Spain attack

Police have shot and killed five people wearing fake bomb belts who staged a car attack in a seaside resort in Spain’s Catalonia region hours after a van ploughed into pedestrians on a busy Barcelona promenade, killing at least 13 people and injuring over 100 others.

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A seven-year-old Australian boy missing and his mother is among four other Australians injured in the Barcelona attack.

Authorities said the back-to-back vehicle attacks – as well as an explosion earlier this week elsewhere in Catalonia- are connected and the work of a large terrorist group.

Three people have been arrested, but the driver of the van used in the Barcelona attack remains at large

Spain’s security forces have named him as Moussa Oukabir, the teenage brother of one of those arrested.

Authorities were still reeling from Thursday’s Barcelona attack when police in the popular seaside town of Cambrils, about 130 kilometres to the south, fatally shot five people near the town’s boardwalk who had ploughed into a group of tourists and locals. Six people, including a police officer, were injured, though it wasn’t clear how badly.

Catalonia’s interior minister, Joaquim Forn, told Onda Cero radio that the five suspects killed in a subsequent shootout with police were wearing fake bomb belts.

“They were fakes, but very well made, and it wasn’t until the bomb squad carried out the controlled explosion of one that they could determine they were fakes,” he said.

The Cambrils attack came hours after a white van veered onto Barcelona’s picturesque Las Ramblas promenade and mowed down pedestrians, zig-zagging down the strip packed with locals and tourists from around the world.

Forn, told local radio RAC1 the Cambrils attack “follows the same trail. There is a connection.”

He told Onda Cero that the Cambrils and Barcelona attacks were being investigated together, as well as a Wednesday night explosion in the town of Alcanar in which one person was killed.

“We are not talking about a group of one or two people, but rather a numerous group,” he said.

The Barcelona attack at the peak of Spain’s tourist season left victims sprawled across the street, spattered with blood and writhing in pain from broken limbs. Others were ushered inside shops by officers with their guns drawn or fled in panic, screaming and carrying young children in their arms.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility, saying in a statement on its Aamaq news agency that the attack was carried out by “soldiers of the Islamic State” in response to the extremist group’s calls for followers to target countries participating in the coalition trying to drive it from Syria and Iraq.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the killings a “savage terrorist attack” and said Spaniards “are not just united in mourning, but especially in the firm determination to beat those who want to rob us of our values and our way of life.”

By Friday morning, the promenade had reopened to the public, and neighbours and tourist were allowed past police lines to go back to their homes and hotels. The city centre remained under heavy surveillance.

Similar vehicle attacks have been carried out at tourist sites in France, Germany, Sweden and Britain.

The bloodshed was Spain’s deadliest attack since 2004, when al Qaeda-inspired bombers killed 192 people in coordinated assaults on Madrid’s commuter trains.

IS ‘could make use’ of Hanson’s stunt, Iraq ambassador says

Pauline Hanson’s burqa shenanigans in parliament could backfire and give ammunition to the Islamic States’ cause in the Middle East, Iraq’s ambassador to Australia warns.

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The One Nation leader received a stinging rebuke from Attorney-General George Brandis over her stunt in Senate question time on Thursday.

Ambassador Hussain Al-Ameri said such a performance had the potential to negatively influence people at risk of being radicalised both in Australia and the Middle East.

Dr Al-Ameri said the behaviour created a perception that Australians were anti-Muslim and against Islamic principles and traditions.

“Social media makes the world a small village. When anything happens it can be seen anywhere. Accordingly there is no secret thing,” Dr Al-Ameri told AAP.

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“The terrorists are smart. They can make use of this (incident) to motivate their people everywhere, including Australia.”

It’s important to differentiate between extremism and religion as practised by law abiding citizens, he said.

Dr Al-Ameri said he didn’t wish to criticise Senator Hanson directly but merely wished to offer advice that her behaviour may be unhelpful.

He said it was important to create goodwill with Muslim communities and show respect towards customs and traditions.

Dr Al-Ameri praised the leadership of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who last year fasted for the first day of Ramadan and then celebrated an Iftar dinner with Muslim MPs in his party.

Mr Trudeau said at the time that Ramadan reminds people to show appreciation for countless blessings and to put the needs of others before our own.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Canberra it was right to describe Senator Hanson’s behaviour as a “stunt”.

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“Mutual respect is not just the foundation of our success as a multicultural society, it’s the foundation of our national security,” Mr Turnbull said.

Senator Hanson was unrepentant on Friday.

“I’m not embarrassed by what I did. I’ve created debate over it, which needed to be done,” she said.

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Not Greek, but British? Xenophon contacts UK Home Office over possible dual citizenship

The senator said he would publically reveal the documents he receives back from the UK government as soon as possible, predicting he would have an answer by early next week.

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“What can I do? I am making the enquiries,” Senator Xenophon said on Friday. 

“As soon as I get that paperwork I will give it to you all.”

Mr Xenophon, whose Nick Xenophon Team controls three seats in the Senate, has spent the past week denying any dual citizenship concerns despite having a Greek mother and a Cypriot father.

0:00 Xenophon contacts UK Home Office over possible dual citizenship Share Xenophon contacts UK Home Office over possible dual citizenship

He said he wrote letters to renounce any citizenship to the Greek embassy and Cypriot high commission in 2007, before he entered the federal parliament.

“I have never had citizenship of another country, never wanted citizenship of another country,” he said earlier in the week.

But Senator Xenophon’s father Theodoros Xenophou may have left Cyprus for Australia when the country was still a British colony, raising the prospect that Mr Xenophon may have inherited UK citizenship by descent.

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Cyprus was a British colony until 1960. Travel records show the elder Xenophou travelled to Australia in 1951 as a British citizen, the ABC reports.

The inheritance of UK citizenship by descent landed Nationals cabinet minister Fiona Nash in trouble this week, when she revealed she too was a UK citizen.

Parliament will refer her case to the High Court when sitting resumes next month, but Ms Nash has decided to remain in her ministry position until then, following the example set by Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.

The dual citizenship fiasco has already seen five parliamentarians referred to the High Court, to determine whether they were validly elected under Section 44 of the Constitution.

There are the two resigned Greens senators, Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters.

The Nationals’ Matt Canavan and Barnaby Joyce, along with One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts, have also been referred but have decided to remain in the parliament, pending the court’s decision. 

0:00 Barnaby Joyce ‘shellshocked’ by NZ citizenship Share Barnaby Joyce ‘shellshocked’ by NZ citizenship

 

Australian leaders react to Barcelona terror attack

Responding to a deadly attack in Barcelona that has claimed at least 16 lives, Mr Turnbull said the love and prayers of Australians were with the victims and their families.

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0:00 Chaos on the street after Barcelona van attacks Share Chaos on the street after Barcelona van attacks

This is a global battle against terrorism,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

Resolute with Spain in the fight to defeat terrorism we condemn the terrorist attack in Barcelona. Our love & prayers are with the victims.

— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) August 17, 2017

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said earlier that 16 people were killed in the attack, which took place on Thursday when a van careened into pedestrians in the Spanish city’s tourist hub of Las Ramblas.

Scores of people were injured including three Australians, with one of those a woman hospitalised in a serious but stable condition.

Mr Turnbull said plans for keeping Australians safe domestically, including around public spaces, were constantly being adjusted.

0:00 Malcolm Turnbull speaks about Barcelona terrorist attack Share Malcolm Turnbull speaks about Barcelona terrorist attack

“I can assure you – we are relentless.”

Turnbull says newly constructed shopping centres will have terror “resilience built in”. Details on how to come in the report.

— James Elton-Pym (@JamesEltonPym) August 17, 2017

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) director-general Duncan Lewis, appearing alongside the Prime Minister, said intelligence-gathering was essential to prevent attacks in Australia. 

ASIO chief Duncan Lewis says existing “very good” links with Muslim community are “absolutely critical” in counter-terror efforts @SBSNews

— James Elton-Pym (@JamesEltonPym) August 17, 2017

Working with the Council of Australian Governments would also be important in the future, Mr Turnbull said.

“We will look at the full range of counter-terrorism measures,” he told reporters. 

ASIO deputy director general, Tony Sheehan responded to a question about the vulnerability of Australian airports, particularly following the recent counter-terrorism raids across Sydney.

0:00 AFP continuing airport terror plot investigation Share AFP continuing airport terror plot investigation

“Those matters are always under consideration by our agencies, Office of Transport Security and other relevant agencies,” he said.

Shadow foreign affairs spokeswoman, Penny Wong, was pressed for comment and said it was an “unfolding” situation.

“I’m going to leave it to the government to respond to details, because obviously they have information to hand as it comes in,” Ms Wong said.  

New counter-terrorism measures were introduced in Melbourne in June, including road bollards along Bourke Street Mall and the northern edge of Federation Square.

A siren system was also introduced as part of the $10 million safety upgrade.

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