A "millionaire's row" of some of Sydney's most luxurious waterfront homes is on the brink of collapse after a low pressure system covering the entire NSW coast dealt a killer blow.
Among the houses is one owned by Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs coach Des Hasler. The Collaroy property was flooded and sections were destroyed.
His wife Christine Hasler said they were counting their blessings. "We are very lucky," she said.
Hasler later played down the situation. "We're sweet," he said.
The east coast low that has wreaked havoc since Saturday finally started to dissipate last night, but it left a trail of destruction in its wake.
Volunteers were battling in a desperate bid to save a multimillion-dollar unit block from serious erosion in the storm-ravaged suburb.
Rural Fire Service personnel and State Emergency Service volunteers began dumping hundreds of sandbags in front of the four-storey block on Pittwater Rd shortly after 8pm.
Insurance companies have already received more than 11,150 claims from across NSW and Queensland, with estimated insured losses of $38 million. And the Insurance Council of Australia expected that figure to rise significantly.
Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach copped the full force of the storm surge, with waves demolishing the front of the Collaroy Beach Club building and other infrastructure.
Homes on the beach, already ranked as one of the worst three spots in Australia for erosion, were savaged.
Photos of Malcolm McGuinness's Pittwater Rd property were beamed around the world yesterday after he lost half his house and an entire concrete swimming pool to the storm.
"This is one of the only stretches which doesn't have a sea wall and it was the hardest hit," he said
"I'm pretty upset by the whole thing but I have somewhere to stay. We are waiting for the engineers to decide when it is safe to go back."
Two doors down, Mandy Greville and her husband Mark lost their home.
A distraught Mrs Greville said she watched as her backyard started falling into the ocean moments before she was evacuated at 8.30pm on Sunday.
"My deck slid off and three metres of grass came right after," she said.
"There was this loud crack and it all just gave way right in front of me. I don't know what to think, I've never seen weather like that before. But now that this has happened we need protection to stop the rest eroding away."
Real estate valuers estimated yesterday more than $500,000 had been shaved off the market value of affected waterfront homes. "Properties severely damaged in floods tend to attract a stigma and buyers won't pay the same prices while the damage is still fresh in their minds," PMC Property analyst James Freudigmann said.
Houses on Pittwater Rd worth $2.2 million to $4.5 million before the storm swept away large chunks of the properties would be worth 10-15 per cent less, on average, if put on the market in the next six months.
Real Institute of NSW president John Cunningham said the value of the damaged homes would bounce back because of high demand for beachfront homes, but they may still be at risk.
"Some of these properties may not survive if another big storm hits," Mr Cunningham said. "They're built on sand."
Describing the storm as "monstrous" and "ferocious", Premier Mike Baird vowed to fast-track natural disaster assistance: "We are doing everything with local councils on the ground to assess the damage. We will then get (a natural disaster declaration) signed off."
The Insurance Council of Australia yesterday declared an official "insurance catastrophe" after insurers received more than 11,000 storm-related claims in the space of 48 hours.
So far most claims concern typical storm damage, such as roof and gutter damage, and damage due to fallen trees. There are also reports of cars being flooded," acting CEO Karl Sullivan said.
People living and working in disaster-declared areas will be eligible for immediate relief packages, including interest-free loans for small businesses and grants for affected councils.
The Red Cross said yesterday it would deploy special emergency assistance teams to provide disaster support.
"It can be a tough time, with people feeling a host of different emotions as they come to terms with what they're experiencing," spokesman Andrew Coghlan said. "They'll be feeling everything from shock to grief and loss, worry about loved ones and pets, and uncertainty about the future."
Despite yesterday's easing conditions, Bureau of Meteorology flood warnings remained in place for waterways across NSW. The Hawkesbury River at Windsor is expected to peak at midday today, causing minor flooding.