Several people including babies have been rescued from Lismore Base Hospital in northern New South Wales after the roof of the maternity ward collapsed.
A severe hail storm caused scaffolding to fall onto the roof, causing the internal ceiling to fall in.
It is understood 12 mothers and five babies were in the maternity ward when plaster from the roof fell onto them.
Witness Tracey Ryan, who was in the hospital during the incident, said the initial moments after the roof collapsed were filled with terror.
“[There was a] young lady that was screaming ‘my baby, my baby’ over and over again near the nurses station — she’d been hit by plaster and she was cradling her little premmie baby,” Ms Ryan said.
“She’d sort of sheltered the baby while she got hit by the plaster and, in the meantime, they were telling people not to go any further because of perhaps electrical wires, but the whole time you could hear the water gushing in, the roof collapsing.”
Nobody was injured, and all the patients in the ward were safely moved to another part of the hospital, which is being redeveloped.
The NSW fire brigade sent six trucks to the scene, while ambulance, police and the SES were also on the scene.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) issued a severe thunderstorm warning for large hailstones, heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding and destructive winds in the Northern Rivers.
The warning included Lismore, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Tenterfield, Sawtell and Dorrigo.
Hail the size of golf balls was reported at Lismore and Tatham around 4:30pm (AEDT) and south of Bellingen about 2:00pm.
Thousands of homes and businesses lost power, with Lismore and Coffs Harbour among the worst-affected areas.
More than 50 millimetres of rain fell at Belongil Creek in half an hour and 43 millimetres fell in the same timeframe at Repentance near Coopers Creek in the Northern Rivers area.
Further north in Queensland, a very dangerous thunderstorm moved across the south-east, tearing roofs from buildings in Warwick before hitting Brisbane and the Gold Coast.