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Australia flood toll rises to 20 as Sydney braces for 'tough 48 hours'

Cars are stranded in floodwaters in Sydney, as thousands have been asked to evacuate due to heavy rain and flash floodings. (Photo by AFP)

The death toll from devastating floods in eastern Australia rose to 20 on Tuesday, after two more bodies were discovered in floodwaters in Sydney, reports said.

According to police, the two latest victims – a man and a woman – were “suspected” to be a missing mother and son whose car was abandoned in a stormwater canal.

Thousands of people in Sydney, Queensland, and New South Wales (NSW) have been rendered homeless amid heavy downpours and record-breaking floods that have taken a heavy toll on people.

More than 60,000 Sydney residents have been ordered to evacuate their homes with emergency services warning of "a tough 48 hours" for Sydney, the capital of NSW.

The uninterrupted rainfall across Sydney has swept away farms, ripped up roads and power lines. People have also been complaining about slow relief and recovery efforts.

More than 2000 residents living in the vicinity of Manly Dam in the city’s north have been asked to evacuate as the dam has begun to overflow following two weeks of incessant rain.

In the riverside suburb of Georges Hall, vehicles were seen submerged and police had to rescue people stranded in their cars, according to reports.

State emergency services have been struggling in the face of the unprecedented deluge, with flood warnings in place Tuesday for the entire 2,000-kilometre coastline of New South Wales.

"It's very much the watery equivalent of the 'Black Summer' bushfires," emergency services spokesperson Phil Campbell was quoted as saying by AFP.

The scale of the damage to property and wildlife, he noted, was similar to the devastating bushfires that ravaged eastern Australia east in late 2019 and early 2020.

"We have also had a similar effect on communities in terms of dislocation with roads closed, infrastructure damaged, power outages," Campbell remarked.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in an interview with radio station 2GB on Monday called the floods “terrible”.

"These are floods that we have not seen in living memory in anyone's lifetime, and even before that. And so I can understand the great frustration (we are) seeing expressed,” he stressed.

Described as a "weather bomb", the record-breaking and relentless deluge has affected many towns and cities in eastern Australia, forcing people to abandon their homes and belongings.

Some parts of the country have received more rain in a single day than they would expect in a month.

Dominic Perrottet, NSW premier, during his tour of the flood-hit regions on Monday, said the recovery could take years with about 2,000 homes rendered uninhabitable by the deluge.

“The stories that we’ve heard, the sense of abandonment that many people had in devastating circumstances is heartbreaking, and we need to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

The Insurance Council of Australia has estimated the current cost of claims from the floods at $963 million. Insurers have till now received 86,703 claims, according to reports.

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