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Lightning bolt knocks four people unconscious near Sydney Opera House during rush-hour thunderstorm

  A general view as rain and bad light stop play during the Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and Victoria at SCG, on 19 February 2024 (Getty Images)
A general view as rain and bad light stop play during the Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and Victoria at SCG, on 19 February 2024 (Getty Images)

Four people have been taken to hospital after they were struck by lightning near Sydney Opera House during a rush-hour thunderstorm on Monday.

The victims, two men and two women, were sheltering under a tree at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens of Sydney when it was struck by lightning, said ambulance workers.

Sydney was suffering from major power outages on Monday as the city was battered by heavy rain. According to Ausgrid, at least 10 unplanned outages were affecting 843 sites, while there are 43 planned outages across Sydney.

Dominic Wong of the New South Wales Ambulance Service told reporters that the lightning victims suffered burns and had cardiac symptoms, along with “a brief loss of consciousness”.

“If you’re boating, you should get ashore and seek shelter, and you should not be seeking shelter under a tree,” Mr Wong was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.

A man in his late teens and a woman in her 20s were taken to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and a man and a woman in their 30s were taken to St Vincent’s Hospital, with all four reported to be in stable condition.

Earlier, fire and rescue officials were called to a house fire following a lightning strike at about 2.20pm in Baulkham Hills.

The State Emergency Service and Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) have also issued warnings for flash floods

"A more general severe thunderstorm warning is also current for parts of the Mid North Coast, Hunter, Metropolitan, Central Tablelands, North West Slopes and Plains, Northern Tablelands, Illawarra and Central West Slopes and Plains districts," said the BoM. “A series of troughs are causing slow-moving showers and thunderstorms this morning,” the warning read.

“Severe thunderstorms are likely to produce heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding in the warning area over the next several hours.

“Locations which may be affected include Newcastle, Scone, Armidale, Inverell, Bundarra and Quirindi.”

NSW SES Assistant Commissioner Sean Kearns issued a statement warning commuters against driving in floodwaters.

"We currently have advice warnings in place for heavy rainfall, which brings with it the risk of flash flooding," Mr Kearns said in a statement. "I would encourage the public to follow the advice of emergency service personnel on the ground and not to drive through floodwater."

Sydney Trains has also requested commuters to “delay travel if possible or use alternative transport”.

At least 30 departures were cancelled in Sydney after the airport’s main runway was shut for 20 minutes after a lightning strike tore a hole in the tarmac, reported Al Jazeera.