Thousands of Sydney suburban residents are ordered to evacuate amid torrential rains and the threat of flash flooding.
Thousands of residents have been ordered to evacuate southwestern Australia’s largest city, Sydney, with torrential rains and damaging winds battering the east coast and flooding expected to be worse than those that have hit the region in the past year.
Heavy rain and overflowing dams and rivers combined to cause flash flooding and landslides along the east coast from Newcastle to Batemans Bay in New South Wales state on Sunday, with rain expected to increase overnight.
“If you were safe in 2021, don’t assume you’re safe tonight. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we could very well see affected areas that have never experienced flooding before,” Steph Cooke, New South Wales’ emergency services minister, said in a televised media briefing Sunday evening. briefing.
Earlier in the day, she urged people to reconsider holiday travel, with the bleak weather at the start of the school holidays.
“This is a life-threatening emergency,” Cooke said.
More than 200 mm (8 inches) of rain has fallen in many areas, some of which have hit as much as 350 mm (13.8 inches), the Bureau of Meteorology said, warning of flood risks along the Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers. Rain volume is almost half of Sydney’s annual average.
Australia is at the sharp end of climate change, with droughts, deadly bushfires, bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and flooding becoming more frequent and severe as global weather patterns change.
Camden in Sydney’s southwest was flooded and the weather bureau predicted that water levels in the North Richmond and Windsor areas of Sydney’s northwest would peak at higher levels than in the last three major floods since March 2021.
“This could get significantly worse over the night,” said state emergency commissioner Carlene York.
The heavy rain caused Sydney’s main dam to flood early Sunday morning, water authorities said, adding that modeling showed the spill would be similar to a major spill in March 2021 at the Warragamba Dam.
“There is no room for the water to stay in the dams. They start to spill. The rivers flow very fast and are very dangerous. And then we have the risk of flash flooding, depending on where the rainfall is,” York said.
Emergency services said they have conducted more than 100 flood rescues in the past 24 hours and responded to more than 3,000 requests for assistance. Evacuation centers have been opened in several areas in western Sydney.
In the past 24 hours, 29 people have been rescued from flooding, including a woman who was hung from a pole for an hour as workers struggled to reach her.
The body of a man who fell from a kayak was recovered from Sydney Harbour, police said, adding that the circumstances were under investigation but appeared to be related to the windy conditions.
The Australian government has provided the state with 100 troops and two helicopters to assist in any rescues, Defense Secretary Richard Marles said on Sky News.
Jane Golding, the weather agency’s preparedness and response manager, said a coastal trench that has persisted since Friday deepened as a low-pressure system formed on the east coast off the mid-north coast.
“That has caused extraordinary rainfall in the past 24 hours,” she said.