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Heavy rains ease in Australia's New South Wales, flood warnings remain in place

By Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Heavy rains that battered Australia's New South Wales started to ease on Sunday, but several areas still faced flood warnings.

New South Wales state emergency service said in a statement that heavy rains over the prior 24 hours had caused flooding. Emergency services overnight responded to 343 requests for assistance and performed 21 flood-related rescues. They ordered the evacuation of two camping and holiday park areas and Gronos Point, northwest of Sydney, due to flooding.

Some 80 towns or areas, scattered across the state and including on the outskirts of Sydney, faced flood warnings, and there were concerns about strong winds in coastal areas as the storm starts to move offshore.

With the ground already saturated, flash flooding is a major concern in a number of coastal locations including Sydney, the emergency service said.

It added that many communities within Western New South Wales were affected, and emergency services and the Department of Primary Industries were working to assess the broader impact on farmers.

Australia's east is in the grip of a rare third straight year of the La Nina weather event, associated with increased rainfall. Sydney on Thursday recorded its wettest year since records began in 1858, with almost three months left in 2022.

Dams and rivers are almost full, and officials warned motorists to avoid waterlogged roads during the last weekend of school spring break.

Devastating floods have repeatedly struck Australia's east coast this year. In March, rising waters forced tens of thousands from their homes and at least 13 were killed. (Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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