Wild weather smashes New South Wales for third day

By Martin Parry, AFP

SYDNEY–A storm-tossed ship stuck outside Sydney Harbour with 2,500 passengers on a ��cruise from hell�� was Wednesday finally able to dock as the city and surrounding areas endured a third day of chaos wreaked by heavy rain and high winds. Australia’s biggest city and regions to the north and south, including the Central Coast and Hunter Valley, have been battling cyclonic wind gusts and non-stop downpours since Monday, with emergency services dealing with nearly 10,000 calls for help. Three elderly people died in the country town of Dungog on Tuesday, trapped in their homes as flash floods surged through, and police have grave fears for two others missing after a car was swept away by raging waters in Maitland, New South Wales on Wednesday. ��We’ve got a general idea where that vehicle is, but we’re unable to get to it due to the rising water,�� local police Inspector Brian Tracey told reporters.

New South Wales state Premier Mike Baird asked the communities worst affected to ��hang tough.�� ��The weather still remains dangerous and the conditions are dangerous so this is not a time for complacency,�� he said, although a severe weather warning for Sydney was later lifted. ��Every community can have this assurance that we will do everything possible we can to help them get back on their feet.�� A handful of homes have been washed away by fast-moving floods, with countless others damaged by falling trees and power lines, which have also crushed cars. The Insurance Council of Australia said it had received 19,500 claims, with losses estimated at AU$129 million (NT$3.105 billion; US$100 million) from what has been described as a once-in-a-decade storm. ��I expect these numbers will rise quickly as home owners and businesses assess the damage to their properties and lodge claims with their insurer or through their insurance broker,�� council chief Rob Whelan said.