Australia storm pounds east coast, leaves 3 dead

A swimmer is hit by a wave as he enters the water as severe weather, bringing strong winds and heavy rain, hits the eastern coast of Australia at Clovelly Beach in Sydney, June 5, 2016. Photograph:( Reuters )

Sydney Jun 06, 2016, 06.27 AM (IST)
Giant waves, cyclone-strength winds and torrential rain left three people dead on Australia's east coast today. The storm has forced hundreds to leave their homes.

Two bodies were found in cars washed away in flood, while a man was swept off the rocks south of Sydney's surfing beach of Bondi, police said.

Waves up to five metres (17.5 feet) pounded much of the east coast, including Sydney.  The Bureau of Meteorology has warned of further danger as the storm moves south.

The New South Wales state emergency services said they had received more than 9,250 calls and had conducted 280 flood rescues.

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

Stocks in Australia biggest insurers, including QBE Insurance, Insurance Australia Group and Suncorp, skidded in a stronger wider market.

But CLSA analyst Jan Van Der Schalk did not see a major earnings impact on insurers who said they were still assessing the impact of the catastrophe.

Australian websites including Channel Nine, Foxtel Play and Domino's Pizza went down on Sunday when Amazon Web Service's Sydney zone experienced a two-hour power outage, ITnews website said.

An Amazon spokesman declined to comment, but Amazon Web Services’ status page today showed several connectivity issues in Sydney had been resolved.

Automated teller machines and point-of-sale banking services were also hit.

A spokeswoman for the Port Authority of New South Wales state said Newcastle, the world's largest exit point for sea-borne thermal coal, which is used by global miners Glencore, Rio Tinto and Anglo American, was placed on restricted ship movements over the weekend but did not sustain any damage.

"While some sites had minor production interruptions, none of these has impacted our contractual obligations or production forecasts," Glencore said.

Port Kembla, the largest vehicle import hub in Australia, remained closed as the storm moved south.