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Australia Wind Storms Cause Havoc

Parts of Sydney and surrounding regions were declared natural disaster areas Tuesday after a wind storm packing gusts of up to 70 mph caused massive damage, uprooting trees and leaving 78,000 homes without power.

Emergency workers struggled to restore services and clean up damage from the storm, which swept a 185-mile stretch of coastline in and around Sydney, Australia's largest city.

Emergency crews also battled some 100 bush fires burning across the region, after record temperatures approaching 122 degrees sparked the blazes on Monday. At least five fires were still causing concern late Tuesday, a fire services spokesman said.

The windstorm whipped along the coast and areas north and south of Sydney late Monday.

"We knew it was coming, but we didn't expect it to hit with the ferocity it did," said Derek Archer, a spokesman for the State Emergency Services.

Regions declared disaster areas would be eligible for emergency funds, State Emergency Services Minister Bob Debus said. The Insurance Council of Australia estimated storm damage at $6.6 million dollars, but no official estimate was available.

Police declined to link the storm to the death of a 9-year-old boy who was crushed when fencing fell on him.

Power was cut to some 78,000 homes in an area stretching from some 125 miles south of Sydney to 63 miles north of the city. Power companies said most customers should be reconnected by late Tuesday or Wednesday.

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