Australia PM Turnbull diverts election tour to visit storm-ravaged voters

Turnbull (pictured) will meet flood victims in New South Wales state, while his challenger Bill Shorten is diverting his own campaign to Sydney to inspect damage.
Turnbull (pictured) will meet flood victims in New South Wales state, while his challenger Bill Shorten is diverting his own campaign to Sydney to inspect damage.PHOTO: EPA

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull suspended his election campaign tour on Tuesday (June 7) to visit areas of the country ravaged by a powerful storm that has battered the country's east coast for several days.

Giant waves, cyclone-strength winds and torrential rain swept three people to their deaths on Monday after the storm forced hundreds to flee their homes.

Turnbull had been due to visit the southern state of Tasmania on Tuesday to continue campaigning for a July 2 election but changed his plans as the island state grapples widespread flooding.

Turnbull will instead meet flood victims in New South Wales state, while his challenger Bill Shorten is diverting his own campaign to Sydney to inspect damage.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has issued major flood warnings over parts of Tasmania, after a high pressure system to the state's east combined with a trough over eastern Australia resulted in heavy rainfall.

 

The three people who died were all believed to be drivers caught in floodwaters.

Emergency services were due to resume a search early Tuesday for a swimmer who went missing at Sydney's Bondi Beach on Monday afternoon. In Tasmania, police planned to resume the search for two elderly people swept away by floodwaters, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported.

Waves up to 5m pounded much of the east coast at the weekend, leading to widespread property damage.

Insurers received more than 11,150 claims with estimated insured losses of A$38 million (S$38 million), the Insurance Council of Australia said. It expects the number of claims to rise further over the coming days.