Tens of thousands of people in Sydney have been forced to flee their homes after torrential downpours lashed areas of Australia’s largest city again, as the death toll since the deluge began reached 20.
The crisis has seen huge evacuations as record-breaking rain pummelled a huge swathe of the country’s east coast, flooding several big suburbs.
Towns have been cut off and farms, livestock and roads swept away, with minor to major flooding occurring from the Queensland to Victoria border – a distance of nearly 1,000 miles.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Dean Narramore warned of “a tough 24 hours or even 48 hours ahead” with five inches of rain across Sydney predicted over the next day.
The storm is expected to clear by late Wednesday.
Flooded roads and submerged cars
Some suburbs have seen up to 200mm of rain since Monday morning, triggering snap evacuation orders in the southwest and northeast of the city.
Television footage showed flooded roads and submerged cars in Sydney’s northern beaches, with residents in low-lying areas told to evacuate.
A 67-year-old woman and her 34-year-old son were found dead near an abandoned car in a stormwater canal in western Sydney, authorities said, while Queensland police confirmed the death of a man missing in floods since 27 February.
Sydney’s five million residents have been asked to avoid unnecessary travel on roads amid flash-flooding warnings and around 60,000 people in the state face evacuation orders.
‘People feel isolated and abandoned’
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet, on a tour of the flood-hit areas, took responsibility for his government’s shortcomings over rescue and relief measures.
“From stories and people I have met, the heart-breaking stories over the course of the week where people felt isolated and abandoned, I don’t want anyone in my state to ever feel like that,” Perrottet told ABC Radio on Tuesday.
The process of recovery will take months, authorities said at the weekend, while donating more than A$2 million (£1.1m) to charities.
The New South Wales (NSW) state government has also warned flood victims about the possibility of scammers setting up fake charities.
Last week, climate change expert professor Hilary Bambrick from Queensland University of Technology warned that Australia is “unprepared for the supercharged weather that it is now driving, such as the current floods in Queensland and NSW”.
“Climate change means that Australia’s extreme weather – heat, drought, bushfires and floods – will continue to get much, much worse if we don’t act now,” she said.