Australia floods: On Monday, eight million residents were told to avoid unnecessary travel and to work from home if possible, as some hard-hit areas received 25 cms of rain in 24 hours
Torrential rain lashed Australia’s southeast again Monday, worsening once-in-a-century flooding that has forced 18,000 people to evacuate their homes and shuttered hundreds of schools.
The days-long deluge has inundated coastal areas of New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, including parts of Sydney.
On Monday, eight million residents were told to avoid unnecessary travel and to work from home if possible, as some hard-hit areas received 25 centimetres (10 inches) of rain in 24 hours. Just over a year ago, the region was parched: suffering prolonged drought, water restrictions and unprecedented bushfires. “I don’t know any time in a state history where we have had these extreme weather conditions in such quick succession in the middle of a pandemic,” said New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Scientists have warned Australia can expect more frequent and more extreme weather events as a result of climate change.
About 18,000 people have been ordered to evacuate and 38 regions have been declared disaster zones, Berejiklian added. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose conservative government has been accused of dragging its feet on climate action, said Australia was “being tested once again” by a “terrible event”.
He told parliament that Australia’s defence force was expected to be called in to assist with the clean-up and recovery.
Emergency services have received at least 8,800 calls for help and rescued hundreds of people from floodwaters since the crisis began.
The state’s Mid North Coast has been particularly badly affected, with Berejiklian declaring the region had been struck by a “one in 100 year” disaster. In Sydney’s vast Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley, swollen rivers were expected to peak at levels not seen since 1961, after the Warragamba Dam, the city’s main drinking water source, spilled over Saturday. The dam was drained of 500 gigalitres of water — roughly equivalent to 200,000 Olympic size swimming pools or the total volume of water in Sydney Harbour.
Residents in some affected areas were allowed to return to their homes Monday after waters receded, but others were placed on high alert as floods moved toward their regions. Authorities have warned of a potentially “life-threatening” situation though so far there have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries. “When you have been through three or four incidents that are life-changing on top of each other, it can make you feel like you are at breaking point,” Berejiklian said.