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Australia begins 'immense' clean up as deadly storm subsides

Emergency response personnel have been deployed after a "once-in-a-decade" storm left four dead and millions of dollars in damage in its wake. Property damage estimated at $100 million is likely to increase.

Emergency crews began the "immense task" of cleaning up on Thursday after

a "once-in-a-decade" storm slammed eastern Australia for three days

, leaving four dead and millions of dollars in damage in its wake.

Hundreds of emergency personnel were deployed throughout the 160-kilometer (100 miles) stretch between Newcastle and the state capital Sydney in the south. The New South Wales state government declared 12 natural disaster areas where special assistance packages would be made available to businesses and homeowners.

State Premier Mike Baird toured a handful of the affected areas, asking residents to be patient while State Emergency Services (SES) personnel worked on clearing roads and fixing electricity supplies, broadcaster ABC reported.

"The SES workers are getting out to as many jobs as they can, as quickly as they can and we're trying to restore power on the same timeframe, as quickly as we possibly can," Baird was quoted in the report.

"But it is going to take some days and in some instances weeks and months before the community is back where it was before this storm came in," he said.

The SES received more than 12,600 requests for assistance and ordered the evacuation of 200 homes since the storm began on Monday.

Damages set to increase

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) said it received more than 19,500 claims with losses amounting to $100 million (93.5 million euros). However, costs may increase substantially with some reports topping $1 billion (930 million euros).

"I expect these numbers will rise quickly as homeowners and businesses assess the damage to their properties and lodge claims with their insurer or through their insurance broker," said ICA's executive director Rob Whelan.

The cyclonic wind gusts and record rainfall left four elderly dead while 139 were rescued from their homes.

ls/jil (AFP, dpa)

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