Reuters International

A sign is displayed on a beach that was closed due to dangerous surf conditions at Burleigh Heads on Queensland's Gold Coast, Australia, June 5, 2016. AAP/Dan Paled/via REUTERS

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Torrential rain and high winds battered Australia's east coast on Sunday, leaving up to 26,000 homes without power while flooding forced hundreds of people into evacuation centres.

Residents from towns along the coast of New South Wales state were evacuated as flood waters rose, while state-owned electricity infrastructure firm Ausgrid said it expected the number of homes without power to rise.

The extreme weather also prompted Sydney Airport to close two of three runways, and forced a Qantas Airways Ltd flight from Shanghai to land at a military air base.

The New South Wales State Emergency Service issued evacuation orders for low-lying areas along the coast and assisted in rescuing stranded residents and livestock.

Wild weather was expected to continue throughout Sunday and flood warnings remained in place for towns along the east coast.

Australia is prone to extreme weather events such as flooding, tropical cyclones and bushfires.

(Reporting by Jarni Blakkarly; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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