SYDNEY — Wild weather which has smashed into Australia’s east coast and whipped up giant waves on Sydney beaches has left at least three people dead and others missing, police said on Monday as the clean-up began.
Ferocious storms pounded the coast over the weekend, causing flooding in New South Wales while huge seas resulted in coastal erosion, in one instance sweeping away the in-ground swimming pool of a beachside home.
"This storm, which was so ferocious, has taken life from us," New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said as he warned that conditions remained dangerous.
"Up and down the coast this has caused carnage.
"It is clear -- the ferocity of this storm was such that the damage has been unbelievable up and down the coast."
The Bureau of Meteorology said a combination of rain, wind and wave action had combined to create the extreme conditions.
One part of Sydney suffered its worst flooding in 30 years, while the city’s Observatory Hill weather station received some 226 millimetres of rain over the weekend -- well above the average monthly rainfall for June of 131.9 millimetres.
The bureau said a wind gust in excess of 115 kilometres per hour (71 miles per hour) was recorded in Sydney Harbour during the storm, while two of the three runways of Sydney Airport were closed due to the high winds.
Police said divers had retrieved two bodies from cars which had been swept away in flood waters, one in the southwestern Sydney suburb of Leppington and another in the town of Bowral, some 100 kilometres south of the city.
The New South Wales State Emergency Service said despite a flood rescue crew attending to the vehicle at a Leppington creek, they could only rescue one occupant. Police said they heard the cries of someone else.
Authorities said the body of a third man was found near a flooded river crossing close to Canberra, adding that attempts to rescue him also failed due to the severe weather and fast-rising water.
The storm swept south from Queensland, through New South Wales and onto Tasmania where police Monday held grave fears for two people thought to have been swept away by floodwaters.
A man aged in his 80s was feared to have been swept away, Tasmanian police said, while the wife of another elderly man rescued by helicopter through the roof of his inundated home was missing. — AFP