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Australia's southeast remains on flood watch as river levels peak

SYDNEY, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Flood-weary residents across Australia's southeast rushed to fortify their properties with sandbags on Wednesday as water continued to flow from overloaded dams and swollen rivers.

Heavy rain over three days into Monday burst river banks, unmoored houses, submerged bridges and cut off entire towns in the rural southwest regions of New South Wales the worst-affected state, and northeast parts of Victoria.

Emergency crews have rescued hundreds of residents in New South Wales by helicopters and boats, with some clinging to trees and rooftops.

Police said the body of a 60-year-old woman believed to have been missing in flood waters was found on Wednesday while search continued for a missing 85-year-old man.

Forbes, one of the worst-affected rural towns in the state's wheatbelt, is on high alert with the Lachlan River expected to peak near a 70-year high later on Wednesday - the second time in as many weeks.

"It is a waiting game now. We will wait until it peaks and, of course, we will go into recovery mode again ... we're all mystified as to why this is happening," Forbes Mayor Phyllis Miller told Channel Nine on Wednesday.

Flooded highways near several inland towns are hampering rescue operations and have disrupted supplies.

Bernardi's, a local supermarket in Forbes, have been trying to get essential food items but have run out of milk.

"(The floods are) not something I have seen before, not something that we want to see repeating any time soon," owner Joseph Bernardi told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

But there were some signs of relief with flood water receding in some places and rescue teams, including defence force personnel and volunteers from New Zealand, clearing debris.

Australia has been devastated by frequent floods across its east over the last two years due to a multi-year La Nina weather phenomenon, typically associated with increased rainfall. Some regions have endured four major flood crises since last year. (Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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