Two people struck by lightning as severe hailstorm wreaks havoc in Canberra and Sydney, & more in News in 5.

– With AAP.

1. Two people struck by lightning as severe hailstorm wreaks havoc in Canberra and Sydney.

On Monday afternoon, a fierce hailstorm pelted Canberra before sweeping across Sydney with stones the size of golf balls inflicting severe damage across the capitals.

In NSW, two people were struck by lightning – a 16-year-old boy in the Blue Mountains and a 24-year-old man who sustained an electric shock while leaning against a metal railing nearby.

Both were taken to Nepean Hospital in a stable condition.

In Canberra, the 15 minute storm prompted more than 1750 calls for help to the ACT Emergency Services Agency and caused more than 1000 homes to lose power.

Some 14,000 Ausgrid customers lost power in Sydney after strong winds, lightning and hail struck the Sutherland Shire and northern beaches areas.

At about 10.30pm on Monday, 13,000 remained without power with repairs continuing overnight in the Sutherland Shire.

A number of people posted images and videos of the damage to Twitter.



Downpours have provided relief for parts of drought-stricken NSW in recent days and helped firefighters slow the spread of bushfires and build containment lines ahead of increased fire danger mid-week.

However, authorities are now warning rainfall run-off in NSW’s fire-affected areas may bring flash flooding filled with debris such as ash, soil, trees and rocks as temperatures are set to rise later in the week.

The wild weather is the latest twist in both Canberra and Sydney’s bizarre summer after the cities have been choked with thick bushfire smoke over the past month.

2. “He took just one hour and 21 minutes.” Federer through to the second round of the Australian Open.

Showing no signs of ring rust, Roger Federer has begun his campaign for a record-equalling seventh Australian Open title by dispatching American Steve Johnson in straight sets.

In his first competitive outing since losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Finals in mid-November, Federer broke world No.75 Johnson’s serve early in each set of the 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory on Monday.

“I just haven’t played proper matches in many, many weeks, and a lot of guys, probably 95 per cent of the guys are coming here with matches,” said the 38-year-old Swiss.

“So I’m not one of those guys, but now I have one.

“Best of five (sets) too, which is even better.

“For me, really the first three rounds are key to get going, to get used to the pressure, stay calm, when to save break point or 30-all points or whatever it may be.

“This is sort of the unknown that can be a little bit scary at times.

“But today there was none of that because I broke early each set and was able to get on a roll and play freely after that.”


The evergreen Swiss has not lost in the opening round of a major since the 2003 French Open and has never been beaten in the first or second round at Melbourne Park.

Even more remarkably, Federer has advanced at least as far as the semi-finals in 14 of his previous 16 outings at the Australian Open.

“When you win, it’s all good, you know, or even when you make semis and beyond, you know you’re in good shape, plus you’re just coming off the off-season so you have the confidence,” he said.

“You have practice flowing through your body, too.

“The problem is sometimes when you play too many matches and you don’t have that practice block, in a way you’re just playing to win, just trying to weasel your way to the next victory and you forget how to properly play tennis.

“So the Australian Open, it’s nice if you play well, but there is no drama as if it doesn’t go well for the rest of the season.

“It’s worse if later in the season success is not there and you’re missing that block of practice and you can’t rely on it anymore because it’s too far back.”

Novak Djokovic holds the record for most men’s Australian Open singles titles with seven, including last year’s triumph over Rafael Nadal.

Federer’s second-round opponent on Wednesday will be either French qualifier Quentin Halys or Serb Filip Krajinovic.

3. Platypus are the next Australian native animal at risk of extinction.

Koalas have been pushed to the edge of extinction and researchers are warning another iconic Australian animal could be next.

Platypus were once thought to be too odd-looking to exist but a number of factors may soon push that description perilously close to reality, according to the study undertaken by UNSW researchers.


The impacts of land clearing, climate change, drought and water distribution are driving the monotreme’s population into drastic decline.

“We might wake up one day and realise, like the koalas, all of a sudden the platypus is critically endangered,” lead researcher Dr Gilad Bino told AAP on Monday.

The platypus was once considered widespread across eastern Australia and Tasmania but its “cryptic” nocturnal nature means knowledge of its population and spread has been limited until now.

The study found that under current climate change and threat projections, the platypus population could decline by up to 73 per cent over the next 50 years, and their spread shrink by as much as 56 per cent.

Even if threats to the species were limited to current levels, the number of platypus would decline by between 47 per cent to 66 per cent and their population spread shrink by 22 per cent.

The study anticipates platypus will become “locally extinct” in up to 40 per cent of the areas it currently lives.

The struggling Murray-Darling River system has already claimed some South Australian platypus populations.

“Particularly in South Australia, we know the platypus used to extend along the Murray River but are now in some areas practically extinct,” Dr Bino said.

“The lack of conscious sustainable management of rivers, habitat destruction, sedimentation … you’ve got all these synergistic impacts that are running in conjunction and compounding the impact.”

But Dr Bino said he was optimistic better conservation, increased monitoring and more captive breeding and research programs could save the species.


The team would also like to see the platypus conservation status reassessed. South Australia is the only state to currently list the animal as endangered.

4.  Prince Harry carried out one of his last remaining official engagements after his heartfelt speech about leaving the royal family.

The Duke of Sussex has met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other world leaders attending the UK-Africa Investment Summit just hours after saying he had “no other option” but to step back from royal life.

Harry carried out what is likely to be one of his few remaining official engagements before the Sussexes take a “leap of faith” and leave the monarchy for a new life in Canada, with the freedom to take on commercial ventures.

Looking relaxed and wearing a suit, shirt and tie the duke arrived at London’s Docklands where Johnson was hosting the global event.

The PM and the duke had an informal “catch-up” chat, meeting for 20 minutes one-to-one without any aides present.

Harry gave an emotional speech on Sunday night where he told the “truth” about leaving royal duties behind in a bid for a “more peaceful life” for his family.

His comments came after Buckingham Palace released the outcome of talks between the Queen, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cambridge and Harry over the future role of the Sussexes.

Harry and Meghan had wanted to remain as working royals, although not prominent members, and drop their public funding so they could become financially independent – a dual role many commentators said was fraught with problems.

But in a statement issued on Saturday after royal family talks concluded, the Sussexes announced they will stop carrying out royal duties from the spring, no longer use HRH and will repay the taxpayers’ millions spent on their Berkshire home.

Critics have accused the couple of turning their backs on the monarchy in order to enjoy the freedom that being able to take on commercial ventures brings.

In a speech at a private event for his charity Sentebale on Sunday night in London, Harry told invited guests: “What I want to make clear is we’re not walking away, and we certainly aren’t walking away from you.

“Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible.

“I’ve accepted this, knowing that it doesn’t change who I am or how committed I am.

“But I hope that helps you understand what it had to come to, that I would step my family back from all I have ever known, to take a step forward into what I hope can be a more peaceful life.”

The duke was not officially attending the summit but was holding audiences – one-to-one meetings – with a number of foreign leaders at the request of the UK Government.


Harry sat down to talks with Saad-Eddine El Othmani, prime minister of Morocco, Peter Mutharika, president of Malawi and Filipe Nyusi, president of Mozambique.

5. Donald Trump’s lawyers have labelled the impeachment case against him “flimsy”.

President Donald Trump’s legal team have insisted that he did “absolutely nothing wrong”, calling the impeachment case against him “flimsy” and a “dangerous perversion of the constitution”.

The brief from Trump’s lawyers, filed ahead of arguments expected later this week in the Senate impeachment trial, offered the most detailed glimpse of the lines of defence they intend to use against Democratic efforts to convict the President over his dealings with Ukraine.

It is meant as a counter to a brief filed two days ago by House Democrats that summarised weeks of evidence from more than a dozen witnesses in laying out the impeachment case.

The 110-page filing from the White House shifted the tone toward a more legal response but still hinged on Trump’s assertion he did nothing wrong and did not commit a crime even though impeachment does not depend on a material violation of law but rather on the more vague definition of “other high crimes and misdemeanours” as established in the Constitution.

It says the two articles of impeachment brought against the president, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, do not amount to impeachment offences.

It asserts that the impeachment inquiry centred on Trump’s request that Ukraine’s president open an investigation into Democratic rival Joe Biden was never about finding the truth.

“Instead, House Democrats were determined from the outset to find some way – any way – to corrupt the extraordinary power of impeachment for use as a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election,” Trump’s legal team wrote.

“All of that is a dangerous perversion of the constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn.”

The prosecution team of House managers was expected to spend another day on Capitol Hill preparing for the trial, which will be under heavy security.

Opening arguments are expected within days following a debate over rules.

The White House brief argues that the articles of impeachment passed by the House are “structurally deficient” because they charge multiple acts, creating “a menu of options” as possible grounds for conviction.

The Trump team claims that the Constitution requires that senators agree “on the specific basis for conviction” and that there is no way to ensure that the senators agree on which acts are worthy of removal.