December 3, 2023

RICHMOND, Australia – Hundreds of homes were submerged in and around Australia’s largest city, officials said on Tuesday, in a state of emergency due to floods affecting 50,000 people.

State Emergency Service Director Ashley Sullivan said emergency response teams conducted 100 rescues overnight to people trapped in cars on flooded roads or in flooded homes in the Sydney area.

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Days of heavy rain caused levees to overflow and wreck waterways, triggering the fourth flood emergency in 16 months in parts of the city of 5 million people.

New South Wales Premier Dominic Beirut said eviction orders and warnings to prepare to leave homes affected 50,000 people, up from 32,000 on Monday.

“This event is not over yet. Please don’t be complacent, wherever you are. Please be careful when driving on our roads. There is still a high risk of flash floods across our state,” Perrottet said.

The New South Wales state government declared a disaster in 23 local government areas overnight, activating the federal government’s financial assistance for flood victims.

Emergency Services Secretary Steve Cook credited the skill and commitment of rescue crews in preventing any death or serious injury by the fourth day of the flood emergency.

Hundreds of homes were submerged in a flood emergency affecting 50,000 people, officials said Tuesday.Mark Baker/AFP

Parts of southern Sydney fell nearly 8 inches of rain in 24 hours, more than 17 percent of the city’s annual average, said Jonathan Howe, a meteorologist with the Bureau of Meteorology.

Severe weather warnings of torrential rain persisted across Sydney’s eastern suburbs on Tuesday. Warnings also extended north of Sydney along the coast and into the Hunter Valley.

The worst floods were along the Hawkesbury-Nepean River system along the northern and western edges of Sydney.

“The good news is that by noon tomorrow it appears to be mostly dry, but of course we are reminding people that these floodwaters will still be very high after the rain stops,” Kave said.

“There was a lot of rain overnight and this has already seen some rivers peak for a second time. So you have to take several days, if not a week, until you start to see these floodwaters start to recede,” she added.

Residents of Lanceville, in southwest Sydney, were surprised by the speed with which their area was inundated and by the increasing frequency of such floods.

“Well, it happened in 1986 and 1988, and then it hasn’t happened for 28 years, so it’s 2016 and 2020 and now it has happened four times this year,” a local Lanceville-only resident Terry told Australian Broadcasting Corp. His house is under water.

Wild weather and mountainous seas along the New South Wales coast frustrated plans to tow a doomed cargo ship with 21 crew members on board to safety in the open sea.

The ship lost power after leaving a port in Wollongong, south of Sydney, on Monday morning and risked being stopped by a 26-foot swell and winds gusting at 34 mph against the rapids.

The attempt to tow the ship with its tugboats into the open ocean ended when the 36-foot tow line was cut late Monday, Port Authority CEO Philip Holliday said.

The ship was maintaining its position on Tuesday farther from the coast than it was on Monday with two berths and two auxiliary boats. The original plan was for the ship’s crew to repair their engine at sea. Holiday said the new plan was to tow the ship to Sydney when weather and sea conditions calmed on Wednesday.

“We are in a better position than we were yesterday,” Holiday said. “We are in relative safety.”

Beirut described the response of the tug crews on Monday to the rescue of the ship as “heroic”.

“I want to thank these men and women who were on those crews last night for the heroic work they did in incredibly treacherous conditions,” Perrottet said, calling it “incredibly impressive.”

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