Sydney (AFP) – Floods inundated or threatened the homes of 85,000 people around Sydney on Wednesday as rivers began to recede and tracked torrential rain north of Australia’s largest city.
As the rains were receding across Sydney, emergency services minister Steve Cook said many waterways, including the Hawkesbury-Nepian river system on Sydney’s northern and western fringes, remained at major flood levels.
She said emergency responders knocked on doors at night in the towns of Singleton and Muswellbrook, in Hunter Valley north of Sydney, ordering residents to evacuate.
“For many, it was a sleepless night,” Cook said.
New South Wales Premier Dominic Beirut said eviction orders and official warnings to prepare to leave homes had been issued to 85,000 people by Wednesday, up from 50,000 on Tuesday.
On the fifth day of the flood emergency, Perrotette warned that homes that had remained dry during previous floods could be inundated this week.
“This event is not over yet. Please do not let that past experience inform your current behavior,” Beirut said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said federal funding will be available for flood victims starting Thursday, less than two days after a disaster was declared in 23 local government areas.
“I think this is the fastest that has ever been approved for these payments,” Albanese said.
Albanese said the fourth major flood event across Sydney and surrounding areas since March last year that followed devastating bushfires in the same area during the 2019-2020 Southern Hemisphere summer was evidence of the need for climate action.
“We are looking for long-term solutions. My government has changed Australia’s position on climate change from day one.
Albanese’s centre-left Labor Party was elected in May on a promise to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions 43% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade. The previous conservative government had promised a cut of between 26% and 28%.
“What we do know is that Australia has always been prone to floods and bushfires, but we know that science has told us that if we continue to not take action, globally, on climate change, then … extreme weather events will be more often and more severe,” he added. Albanese: “What we’re seeing, unfortunately, is that’s happening.”
Albanese said when parliament resumes on July 26 for the first time since the election, the government will propose spending A$4.8 billion ($3.3 billion) on disaster mitigation measures such as building higher river dams.
The weather pattern that has brought heavy rain to Sydney since Friday has moved off the coast north of the city of 5 million, said Jane Golding, director of the Bureau of Meteorology.
Golding said torrential rain had fallen in the past 24 hours as far north as Coffs Harbour, 450 kilometers (280 miles) from Sydney.
McGurk reported from Canberra, Australia.