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Sydney floods impact 45,000 around Australia’s largest city

Hundreds of homes were submerged in and around Australia’s largest city, officials said Tuesday, in a state of emergency due to flooding that has threatened 45,000 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.

Heavy rains over days have caused dams to overflow and smash waterways, triggering the fourth flood emergency since March last year in parts of the city of 5 million people.

The New South Wales state government has declared a disaster area in more than 20 local government areas overnight, activating the federal government’s financial assistance for flood victims.

Evacuation orders and warnings to prepare to leave homes affected 45,000 people as of Tuesday, up from 32,000 on Monday, Sullivan said.

“The weather should remain at least today and tomorrow, and the threat will remain with flood warnings for the rest of this week,” Sullivan told Nine Network television.

Parts of southern Sydney fell more than 20 centimeters (nearly 8 inches) of rain in 24 hours, more than 17% 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 system of rivers 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 that fell overnight, and this is actually seeing the peak of some rivers for the 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.

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 the safe sea.

The ship lost power after leaving a port in Wollongong, south of Sydney, on Monday morning and risked standing on the ground with eight-metre-high bulges and winds of 30 knots (34 mph) on the slopes.

The attempt to tow the tugboat into the open ocean ended when the tow line was cut late Monday, Philip Holliday, CEO of the Ports Authority, said.

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

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

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