RICHMOND, Australia (AP) — Hundreds of homes have been inundated in and around Australia’s largest city in a flood emergency that has left 50,000 people in trouble, officials said Tuesday.
Emergency response teams carried out 100 overnight rescues of people trapped in cars on flooded roads or in flooded homes in the Sydney area, said Ashley Sullivan, head of emergency services for the State.
Days of torrential rain caused dams to overflow and rivers to burst, leading to a fourth flood emergency in 16 months in parts of the city of 5 million.
Evacuation orders and warnings to prepare to abandon homes have been issued to 50,000 people, up from 32,000 on Monday, New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said.
“This event is far from over. Please don’t be complacent, wherever you are. Be careful when driving on our roads. There is still a substantial risk of flash flooding in our state,” Perrottet said.
The New South Wales state government declared a disaster in 23 local government areas overnight, activating federal government financial aid for flood victims.
Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke credited the skill and commitment of rescue teams for preventing any deaths or serious injuries on day four of the flooding.
Parts of southern Sydney were hit with more than 20 centimeters (nearly 8 inches) of rain in 24 hours, more than 17% of the city’s annual average, said Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Jonathan How.
Severe weather warnings of heavy rain remained in place for Sydney’s eastern suburbs on Tuesday. The warnings also extended north of Sydney along the coast and into the Hunter Valley.
The worst flooding occurred along the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system along Sydney’s northern and western fringes.
“The good news is that by tomorrow afternoon it looks like it will be almost dry but, of course, we remind people that these flood waters will remain very high long after the rain stops,” said declared How.
“There was a lot of rain overnight and it actually sees some rivers peaking for the second time. So it takes several days or even a week to start seeing those floodwaters start to recede,” How added.
Residents of Lansvale in Sydney’s southwest have been surprised by the speed at which their area has been flooded and the increasing frequency of flooding.
“Well, it happened in 1986 and 88, then it didn’t happen for 28 years and, so, 2016 and 2020 and now it’s happened four times this yeara Lansvale resident identified only as Terry told Australian Broadcasting Corp television. that his house had been flooded.
Savage weather and mountainous seas along the New South Wales coast thwarted plans to tow a stricken freighter with 21 crew to safety on the high seas.
The vessel lost power after leaving Wollongong Harbour, south of Sydney, on Monday morning and was in danger of being grounded in 8-metre (26-foot) swells and winds gusting to 30 knots (34 mph) against the cliffs.
An attempt to tow the ship with tugs on the high seas ended when a towline snapped in an 11-metre (36ft) swell on Monday night, the Port Authority’s chief executive said, Phillip Holliday.
The ship was maintaining its position on Tuesday farther from the coast than it had been on Monday with two anchors and the help of two tugs. The original plan was for the ship’s crew to repair its engine at sea. The new plan was to tow the ship to Sydney when weather and sea conditions calmed down as early as Wednesday, Holliday said.
“We’re in a better position than yesterday,” Holliday said. “We are relatively safe.”
Perrottet described the tug crews’ response on Monday to saving the ship as “heroic”.
“I want to thank those men and women who were part of those crews last night for the heroic work they did in incredibly dangerous conditions. incredibly impressive,” Perrottet said.
McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.