Sydney: thousands of residents called to evacuate in the face of floods

Sydney: Thousands of residents called to evacuate in the face of flooding

UPDATE DAY

SYDNEY | Thousands of Sydneysiders were called to evacuate their homes on Monday, in the third day of torrential rains as swollen rivers submerged swathes of land and torrents of water escaped from the main dam in the most Australia's largest metropolis. 

“The ground is saturated, the rivers are flowing fast, the dams are overflowing,” said Carlene York, an emergency services manager at the State.

Around 32,000 people have been issued an evacuation order or warning in the state of New South Wales, emergency services said.

Australia is particularly hard hit by climate change, regularly hit by droughts, devastating wildfires, not to mention repeated and increasingly intense floods.

On Monday, the emergency services said helping more than 80 people since the previous evening.

Many people were trapped in their cars trying to cross flooded roads or were stranded in their homes surrounded by rising waters.

On Monday morning, the river's muddy brown waters had turned a large swath of land into a lake in the suburb of Camden, south-west of Sydney.

Television footage showed roads that had disappeared under water and mobile homes in the water, with at least one overturned on its side.

Large volumes of water gushed out from the pressurized Warragamba dam, which supplies the majority of the city with drinking water.

Torrential rains in NSW could persist for at least another 24 hours, forecasters say.

Increasingly common

Offshore off the coast of Sydney, rescuers try to come to the aid of a 150-meter-long freighter with 21 crew members on board. A planned airlifting of crew members had to be postponed for safety reasons, police say.

Australia's east coast has suffered repeated flooding for the past 18 months.

In March, flooding caused by severe storms devastated western Sydney and claimed 20 lives.

As the planet warms, the atmosphere contains more water vapour, increasing the risks of heavy rainfall events, according to scientists. These rains, together with other factors including land use planning, promote flooding.

“Our research into the March 2021 floods in Sydney found that similar events over Sydney were likely to occur 80% more often by the end of the 21st century,” said Kimberley Reid, an atmospheric scientist at Monash University.

Australia must prepare for more regular flooding, Dominic Perrottet, Premier of New South Wales, told a news conference.

“There is no doubt that these events are becoming more frequent,” said he asserted. “Governments need to adapt and make sure we respond to the changing environment we find ourselves in.”