Thousands recued as Sydney deals with worst floods in 60 years

Rain submerges swathes of New South Wales as severe weather expected to last until Wednesday

Heavy rains along Australia’s east coast over the weekend have brought the worst flooding in half a century in some areas. Video: Reuters

 

Thousands more people were moved from Sydney’s western suburbs on Monday as the area braced for further torrential in the wake of its worst flooding in 60 years.

Three days of rain that swelled rivers in Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, left images of submerged road intersections, marooned livestock and cars up to their windshields in water, out of which poked the tops of street signs.

“This is an ongoing situation that is evolving and is extremely dangerous,” prime minister Scott Morrison told parliament.

Australia’s coal exports were disrupted, as the deluge shut rail lines into the port of Newcastle, the world’s largest coal export port, and forced some mines to cut output.

The rain submerging large swathes of the state contrasts with weather conditions a year ago, when authorities were battling drought and catastrophic bushfires.

“I don’t know any time in state history where we have had these extreme weather conditions in such quick succession in the middle of a pandemic,” New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

Sunday was Sydney’s wettest day of the year, with almost 111mm of rain, while nearly 900mm was dumped in some north coast regions in the last six days, or more than three times the March average, government data showed.

The Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers flooded most of northwestern Sydney, leaving residents stranded.

“You get a lot of rubbish. It was going past ... as fast as the ski boats go ... As soon as it broke the banks, it was like a torrent,” said Larry Powers, after he was rescued by emergency services following a day’s wait at his property in Pitt Town.

Authorities said about 18,000 people had been evacuated from low-lying areas.

Large parts of the east coast were to get more heavy rain from Monday, brought by a combination of a tropical low over the northern part of Western Australia and a coastal trough off New South Wales, said Jane Golding, a weather official.

“We expect this heavy rain to fall on areas that haven’t seen as much rain over the last few days,” Ms Golding told reporters. “We expect the flood risk to develop in those areas as well.”

Some parts of Sydney’s western regions have suffered the worst flooding since 1961, said authorities, who expected the wild weather to last until Wednesday.

A severe flood warning has been issued for large parts of New South Wales, as well as neighbouring Queensland. – Reuters