Australia

Clean-up begins after storms lash New South Wales

Men look at debris from homes destroyed after cyclonic winds on April 22, 2015 in Dungog, Australia. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cyclonic winds and flooding have caused devastation in towns such as Dungog

A clean-up operation has begun in New South Wales in the wake of violent storms that battered the Australian state.

Police have confirmed the deaths of four people. Three were killed in Dungog, where homes have been washed away by flooding.

An 86-year-old woman died in the Central Hunter region when her car was swept into floodwaters.

Emergency services have declared 12 communities natural disaster areas.

The fierce weather is expected to ease later on Thursday. All severe weather warnings have been cancelled across NSW.

The storm has left some areas devastated, with roads flooded, homes swept away and power poles snapped.

'Tragedy'

Emergency Services Minister David Elliott told ABC News that it would be some time before the full cost of the disaster is known.

He said: "There are cells still active off the coast of New South Wales, and indeed the fact that the flood waters may well still increase, means that we won't know the entire cost of this particular disaster for many days to come."

Some 190,000 homes in the state are still without power but state-owned supplier Ausgrid said that electricity had been restored to 30,000 properties.

During the days of stormy weather, parts of NSW experienced more than 30cm (one foot) of rainfall, wind gusts of more than 100km/h (60mph) and waves reaching record heights of 15m (50ft).

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Country areas outside of Sydney, like Dungog and Maitland, were the worst affected

On Wednesday, police divers retrieved the body of a missing woman whose car was swept off a causeway in Maitland, near Newcastle.

NSW Police Insp Brian Tracey told ABC News that the incident was a "tragedy" and that her family were devastated.

Two elderly men and an elderly woman have also been found dead in Dungog, one of the worst affected areas.

Image copyright NSW RFS
Image caption About 400 volunteers are helping clean up after massive storms swept across parts of NSW

The region has been declared a natural disaster area, along with 11 others. These areas will receive special assistance packages in the coming days.

Earlier, rising river levels also threatened more than 200 homes in south-western districts of Sydney and forced residents to evacuate.

The flood risk has eased since then but local media report that it is still a concern to authorities.

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Media captionThe house was washed away by floods in Dungog, New South Wales, on the morning of 21 April

There is still some travel disruption in Sydney, with a number of roads closed due to flooding.

An Anzac day event for 10,000 people in the capital has also been affected. The camping event was due to take place on Friday night but has been postponed because of the stormy weather.

The State Emergency Service (SES) says that it has received more than 12,000 requests for help since the bad weather began on Monday and conducted more than 100 flood rescues.

The Insurance Council of Australia has said that it has received 19,500 claims, with losses estimated at US$100m.

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