Thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate southwest Sydney, Australia's biggest city, on Sunday as torrential rain and damaging winds pounded the east coast. Floods were expected to be worse than those that hit the region in the past year.

Heavy rain and overflowing dams and rivers all combined to threaten flash floods and landslides along the east coast from Newcastle down to Batemans Bay in New South Wales state, and rain was expected to intensify on Sunday night.

"If you were safe in 2021, do not assume you will be safe tonight. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we could very well see areas impacted that have never experienced flooding before," New South Wales Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke said in a televised media briefing on Sunday evening.

The body of a man who fell out of a kayak was pulled out of Sydney Harbour, police said, adding that the circumstances were under investigation but appeared to be due to the windy conditions.