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Canberra cleans up after heavy rain and flash flooding hit the capital

Sangay Yeser was working on his assignment when his housemate rushed into his room alerting him to their flooded apartment block.

Mr Yeser, an international student from Bhutan, was one of hundreds cleaning up on Monday after more than a month's worth of rain brought the city to a standstill on the weekend. 

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The flash flood that hit Canberra

Parts of the nation's capital have been hit by floods after severe storms lashed the city.

"I didn't know there was a flood until my housemate came in and by then all my apartment was underwater," Mr Yeser said.

"My brain - it was blank, there was nothing there, I was trying to focus on my assignment but after a few minutes I composed myself."

As of midday on Monday, the ACT Emergency Service Agency responded to 299 requests for assistance, with the main area affected between Belconnen and the Inner North suburbs.

The top five suburbs affected by storm activity over the weekend were:

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  1. O'Connor
  2. Dickson
  3. Lyneham
  4. Florey
  5. Ainslie

Mr Yeser said the water in his ground-level apartment in O'Connor had risen to knee height. He said the water lifted the refrigerators off the ground and ruined the food in the pantry.

Outside, he said the water in the carpark was waist high and the cars submerged. Mr Yeser said the brand-new car he bought on Saturday was filled with water and now had a flat battery.

The unit on David Street is near Sullivans Creek which the Bureau of Meteorology said received the most rain. 

Duty forecaster Rob Taggart said in the 48 hours from 10am Saturday, the Sullivans Creek weather station recorded 164.8mm, while Woolshed Creek had 95.4mm, the boat harbour on Lake Burley Griffin 74.8mm and Oaks Estate crossing 77mm. He said most of that rain fell within a couple of hours.

"The Sullivan creek catchment copped the most rainfall and all of the rain was channelled to O'Connor and the ANU area because of the way the creek catchment runs," Mr Taggart said.

He said the northern suburbs of Canberra were hit hardest with heavy rainfall due to thunderstorms over the region.

The Australian National University was forced to close on Monday after Sullivans Creek burst its banks.

"Down in Tuggeranong there weren't thunderstorms at the time when the front went through. That really intensified the rainfall rate substantially [in the north]."

Canberra Metro is assessing areas of the light rail project to identify any damage and/or potential safety hazards. 

A spokeswoman said the rain impacted different areas of the light rail project to "varying degrees".

"There has been little impact on the northern section of the light rail corridor, from Sandford Street to Gungahlin, and work has already recommenced in those areas," the spokeswoman said.

The southern sections, from Flemington Road towards the city, were flooded and require an assessment before safe works can resume, she said.

No significant construction delays are expected as a result of the heavy rain. 

Deputy Chief Minister and Minster for Housing Yvette Berry said the government was assessing any damage to government assets, including housing ACT buildings.

"The government is making sure that people who are living in housing ACT properties are well supported and are in accommodation if needed, while the clean up is done in their residence," Ms Berry said. 

Seven public housing tenants were significantly affected with three requiring temporary relocations as a result of the flooding. 

Following the rain, the Canberra Liberals requested an urgent briefing from the government, claiming damage from the storm could have been exacerbated by a "neglect of Canberra's essential stormwater assets".

An Auditor-General's report into the systems released late last month found many established areas had not been reassessed for flood risk mitigation, despite there being known risks in some areas.

Some of those areas were also unable to cope with major rain events, according to advice from Transport Canberra and City Services.

"[Infill] developments such as multi-unit high rise developments...reduce the amount of open space to help absorb stormwater so leading to more concentrated flows," the report said.

A spokesperson for Minister Meegan Fitzharris said the events on Sunday were extreme and the kind of rainfall experienced would "place pressure on any stormwater network no matter how much infrastructure is in place."

"Some parts of Canberra received their February monthly average rainfall in one morning, with a huge amount of freak rain falling in a very short period of time," the spokesperson said.

"The Canberra Liberals are simply overreaching here."

The spokesperson said the report made a number of recommendations which the government was considering. 

Mr Yeser, whose assignment was due next week said he was thankful his laptop was not damaged during the flood and managed to retrieve most valuables. Friends of Mr Yeser and his wife have offered them alternate accommodation.

"This is a very unforgettable experience for us," Mr Yeser said. 

- With Sherryn Groch.