Reuters International

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the media during a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, May 8, 2016 after asking Australia's Governor-General Peter Cosgrove to dissolve both Houses of Parliament to call a double dissolution election for July 2, 2016. AAP/Lukas Coch/via REUTERS


SYDNEY, June 7 (Reuters) - - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull suspended his election campaign tour on Tuesday to visit areas of the country ravaged by a powerful storm that has battered the country's east coast for several days.

Giant waves, cyclone-strength winds and torrential rain swept three people to their deaths on Monday after the storm forced hundreds to flee their homes.

Turnbull had been due to visit the southern state of Tasmania on Tuesday to continue campaigning for a July 2 election but changed his plans as the island state grapples widespread flooding.

Turnbull will instead meet flood victims in New South Wales state, while his challenger Bill Shorten is diverting his own campaign to Sydney to inspect damage.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has issued major flood warnings over parts of Tasmania, after a high pressure system to the state's east combined with a trough over eastern Australia resulted in heavy rainfall.

The three people who died were all believed to be drivers caught in floodwaters.

Emergency services were due to resume a search early Tuesday for a swimmer who went missing at Sydney's Bondi Beach on Monday afternoon. In Tasmania, police planned to resume the search for two elderly people swept away by floodwaters, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported.

Waves up to five metres (17.5 feet) pounded much of the east coast at the weekend, leading to widespread property damage. (Full Story)

Insurers received more than 11,150 claims with estimated insured losses of A$38 million, the Insurance Council of Australia said. It expects the number of claims to rise further over the coming days.

(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett, editing by Jane Wardell and Michael Perry)


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