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Call to declare Sydney storm a disaster

Sydney’s storm-hit northern beaches should be declared a disaster zone, the local council says, as hundreds of insurance claims are filed and some residents face abandoning Christmas plans for a second year.

About 2600 homes went into Tuesday evening without power after trees and other debris hit powerlines during Sunday’s brief tornado-like storm.

Northern Beaches Council’s 50 crews were being supported by state emergency services and six other local governments but a disaster declaration was needed, the council’s chief executive said.

“We are asking for the NSW government to support our council, local businesses and residents to be able to access disaster funding and support to assist as the clean-up and recovery continues,” Ray Brownlee said.

He said the extensive clean-up was set to continue for many days.

“This is being felt hard by business and residents who had Christmas plans abandoned last year thanks to the Northern Beaches COVID lockdown,” Mr Brownlee said.

More than 700 insurance claims have been filed, with more expected in coming days.

The Insurance Council of Australia warned disaster chasers were in the area, offering tree and debris removal and requesting payment upfront in cash, but either doing a poor job or charging far too much.

“They can leave families, the elderly and vulnerable Australians much worse off, with large bills and homes that remain badly damaged,” ICA chief executive Andrew Hall said.

“The ICA urges anyone who is approached by a disaster chaser to call the relevant authorities.”

Power supplier Ausgrid has restored power to more than 32,000 premises since Sunday’s storm, including more than 10,000 since Monday evening.

“Whilst a lot has been done so far, we know it’s tough on those still without power – we apologise & thank you for your understanding,” it said on Tuesday.

The storm, which particularly impacted beachside areas from Narrabeen to Dee Why, claimed the life of 68-year-old yoga instructor and retired scientist Susan Cobham.

Ms Cobham and two other women were struck by a tree near Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club.

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