Heavy rain and winds are slamming the east coast of Australia for a third day, with the toll continually rising. So far three people have been killed due to flooding.
Cyclone-strength winds and constant rain persisted for a third day in Sydney and other parts of eastern Australia on Wednesday.
The storms have caused serious flooding, with the state of New South Wales particularly hard hit. Three elderly people died on Tuesday when they were unable to escape from rising flood water.
At least two further people are feared dead after their car washed away, but emergency crews are unable to reach them due to the flood waters.
The Insurance Council of Australia declared the storms a catastrophe on Wednesday, enabling "industry resources to be fully harnessed to assist affected communities."
The council said it had received over 19,500 claims, valued at 129 million Australian dollars (93 million euros, $101 million).
Sydney's International airport was warning travelers of delays of up to 90 minutes.
The Premier of New South Wales, Mike Baird, told reporters that more rain had fallen in the town of Dungog in a 24-hour period from Tuesday to Wednesday than had fallen in any 24-hour period from the previous century.
Many schools have closed and several areas remain without power.
A cruise ship, forced to remain outside of Sydney's harbor when authorities closed the port to commercial traffic due to dangerous waves, was finally allowed to dock on Wednesday, much to the relief of the 2,500 passengers on board. One of the paper's reporters, who was on board the ship, said many people were seasick during the two-day wait to get back to Sydney.
mz/kms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)