Thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate south-west Sydney, Australia’s largest city, on Sunday as torrential rains and devastating winds battered the east coast and threatened flooding in areas which were hammered in March.
The Met Office has warned of heavy rains that could lead to flash flooding and landslides along the east coast region from Newcastle to Bateman’s Bay in New South Wales, the rains expected to intensify over the next two days.
“We now face dangers on many fronts – flash flooding, river flooding and coastal erosion,” NSW Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke said in a televised press briefing. .
She urged people to reconsider holiday travel as bad weather hit at the start of the school holidays.
“This is a life-threatening emergency,” Cooke said.
More than 200 millimeters (8 inches) of rain fell in many areas, some as much as 350 millimeters, the Bureau of Meteorology said, warning of flooding risks along the Nepean River.
Heavy rain caused Sydney’s main dam to spill overnight, water authorities said, adding that modeling showed the spill would be comparable to a major spill in March 2021 at Warragamba Dam.
“There is no place for the water to stay in the dams. They start to sink. The rivers flow very fast and very dangerous. And then we have the risk of flash flooding, depending on where the rains are,” said state Emergency Services Commissioner Carlene York.
In the past day, 29 people have been rescued from floodwaters, including one who clung to a pole for an hour as workers struggled to reach them.
The Australian government has provided the state with 100 troops who are helping with sandbags and two helicopters to help with any rescues, Defense Minister Richard Marles told Sky News.