SYDNEY (AP) — A fierce storm lashing southeast Australia destroyed homes, stranded dozens of people in swirling floodwaters and may have led to three deaths, officials said Tuesday.
The storm has pounded Sydney and other parts of New South Wales state since Monday, dumping more than 30 centimeters (a foot) of rain in some areas with wind gusting more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) per hour.
Flash flooding trapped people in cars and homes. Emergency officials received 4,500 calls for help and rescued nearly 50 people, New South Wales premier Mike Baird said.
In the town of Dungog, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Sydney, three people were found dead and at least one home was swept away.
Police said they were trying to determine how the two men and one woman, all elderly, died.
"At the moment, the circumstances are being worked through, but we do want their families to know our thoughts and prayers are with them," Baird said.
The wind knocked out power lines, peeled off roofs and sent trees crashing into houses, leaving about 200,000 homes and businesses without electricity. Trash cans were overflowing with battered umbrellas in downtown Sydney, where people staggered against the erratic gusts and navigated pond-sized puddles.
A Carnival cruise ship was stuck outside Sydney's harbor, after officials closed the port to all commercial vessels due to dangerously high waves.
The weather was expected to ease Wednesday.