Placeholder when loading item promotions
SYDNEY — Hundreds of people were rescued as severe flooding hit the Sydney area for the fourth time in less than 18 months.
Days of torrential rain has submerged some suburbs – sweeping cars off roads and engulfing bridges – as authorities warned the dangerous weather would continue.
“This event is far from over,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet warned on Tuesday. There are currently 102 evacuation orders in effect across the country, including nearly two dozen new ones overnight, he said, adding that about 50,000 people have been affected by evacuation orders or warnings.
Pictures show record-breaking floods in Australia
The Australian government has declared the flooding a natural disaster, giving some victims access to relief funds. On Monday Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was briefed on the situation after a clandestine trip to Ukraine.
Australia’s east coast has experienced four major floods in less than 18 months as a La Niña weather pattern has brought cooler, wetter conditions. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology recently declared the end of La Niña 2021-2022 but warned it could reform later this year. The current downpours are being caused by a low-pressure area off the east coast, the bureau said.
Sydney was already experiencing its wettest year on record, with 1½ months of rain falling on the city in the first four days of July.
A widely-regarded BBC chart has captured Sydney’s wet situation: it showed Australia’s most populous city received significantly more rain from Friday to Monday than London – which is no stranger to showers – the annual average.
One meteorologist said the city received the equivalent of all the water in Sydney Harbor each day during the downpour.
“It’s hard to imagine a rain event of this magnitude hitting this part of Australia again,” Weatherzone meteorologist Ben Domensino told local television station Nine Network on Monday.
A spokeswoman for the State Emergency Services (SES) said Tuesday noon that the agency had conducted 152 flood rescues in the past 24 hours and nearly 300 since flooding began on June 28 in some areas. There were no known deaths, she said. (The death of a Sydney kayaker over the weekend was unrelated to flooding, police say.)
News footage showed water completely submerging a bridge in the town of Windsor, northwest of Sydney.
For some Sydney residents in historically flood-prone areas, the deluge was the third in four months.
“Where do you start? It destroys you mentally, physically and financially,” said Judy White of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. She said she was still cleaning up from the last flood when water flooded her home in Londonderry, a Sydney suburb, again.
Scientists say climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of natural disasters, raising questions about whether people should continue to live in areas where “once in a century” floods are becoming more common.
James Pittock, a climate expert at the Australian National University, told ABC the government should offer to buy 5,000 or 6,000 of the most flood-prone homes in western Sydney.
Perrottet said 19,000 homes were without power on Tuesday due to heavy rains expected to continue this week.
SES Commissioner Carlene York, who said the flooding had “stretched” her agency’s resources, urged people not to drive unless absolutely necessary.
“Unless you have to travel by road, please do not do anything other than necessary travel,” she said. “It’s dangerous. The water is rising very quickly, as we saw last night. It can put you in danger and requires emergency services agencies to come out and rescue you.”
York also warned roads could remain damaged even after the waters recede.
On Tuesday, the state’s regional transport secretary said the flooding had caused a sinkhole 200 feet deep and 130 feet wide to open next to a railway in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.