SYDNEY • Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his opponent, opposition leader Bill Shorten, suspended their election campaigning yesterday to visit areas ravaged by the powerful storm which has lashed Australia's east coast.
Mr Turnbull, surveying badly flood-damaged shops and businesses in Picton, south-west of Sydney, promised low-interest loans and other support to help recovery. He called flood victims and rescuers "the best of Australia". "These are tough times when nature flings her worst at us but it's when Australians respond best."
The opposition leader visited a landmark surf lifesaving club on Sydney's Coogee beach, which lost much of its lower structure to pounding surf.
As engineers pronounced the building repairable, Mr Shorten vowed support for government recovery programmes.
In the northern suburb of Collaroy, where up to 50m of the beach has been lost, coastal engineer Ian Turner said seven multimillion-dollar waterfront homes at risk of toppling into the sea may have to be partly or totally demolished. "You could audibly hear some creaking and cracking sounds coming from a couple of the homes," Mr Turner told ABC News.
The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) said that insurers had received 14,500 claims across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, with estimated insured losses of A$56 million (S$56.5 million).
You could audibly hear some creaking and cracking sounds coming from a couple of the homes.
COASTAL ENGINEER IAN TURNER, saying that seven multimillion-dollar waterfront homes at risk of toppling into the sea may have to be partly or totally demolished.
But the owners of the Collaroy homes, a nearby apartment block and a surf club appear unlikely to be compensated by insurance.
"Neither actions of the sea nor the effects of gradual sea level rise are considered to be flooding for insurance purposes," ICA spokesman Campbell Fuller said.
The death toll from the storm has risen to four, with three people still missing.
A swimmer who reportedly jumped into the huge swell at Sydney's Bondi Beach on Monday was still missing after the second day of an air and sea search was called off at nightfall yesterday. However, the searchers found the body of a young woman near the harbour entrance. Police said they had no missing person report and her identity was unknown.
In the island state of Tasmania, deluged by rain from the storm, the body of an elderly woman was found yesterday, the day after her husband was rescued through the roof of their flooded home.
Police rescued another woman caught in a car in rising flood waters in Tasmania's north yesterday, and continue to search for her missing companion and also for an elderly man who disappeared in flood waters on Sunday.
"It's certainly disastrous, this is an extreme weather event, the worst flooding we've experienced in this state in 40 years and it's likely to get worse," Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman said.
State Police Commissioner Darren Hine said rescues from flood-affected areas were taking resources away from other emergency efforts.
"We rescued over 100 people who have made poor decisions and put themselves into danger by entering flood waters," he said.
Residents of low-lying areas of Launceston, the island's second city, were advised to spend last night in evacuation centres.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, XINHUA