Sydney: Thunderstorms and giant hail battered parts of Australia's east coast on Monday after "apocalyptic" dust storms swept across drought-stricken areas, as extreme weather patterns collided in the bushfire-fatigued country.
Australia has since October been overwhelmed by an unprecedented bushfire season made worse by climate change.
Swathes of the country have burned, hundreds of millions of animals have died, more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed and at least 29 lives have been lost.
Violent hail storms pelted the capital Canberra on Monday, with footage showing the storm ripping branches off trees.
Emergency services were warning people there to "move cars undercover and away from trees and power lines".
The bureau of meteorology told people in the southeast of New South Wales, including Sydney, to brace for the approaching storm.
"Severe thunderstorms are likely to produce damaging, locally destructive winds, large, possibly giant hailstones and heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding in the warning area over the next several hours," the bureau said.
Two people visiting the popular tourist destination the Blue Mountains were taken to hospital when a 16-year-old boy was hit by lightning and a 24-year-old man suffered injuries while leaning on a nearby metal railing.
"These people are extremely lucky to be alive," Ambulance New South Wales duty manager Greg Marshall said in a statement.
"One centimeter either away and they would have faced a direct hit which could've been fatal." They both remain in hospital in a stable condition.
Dramatic images captured over the weekend from western New South Wales show a massive wall of dust rolling through outback towns. Locals reported being cast into darkness in the middle of the day.
"We are used to the ritual and rush of bringing in washing, turning air cons off, closing windows and doors, before a big dust storm hits," Ashleigh Hull from the rural town of Dubbo told AFP.
This one was "more spectacular" than the typical dust storm, she added.