‘Life-threatening’ floods force evacuations in Sydney, Australia | Climate crisis news

Thousands of residents in the Sydney suburbs have been evacuated amid torrential rain and the threat of flash flooding.

Thousands of residents have been ordered to evacuate south-west Sydney, Australia’s largest city, as torrential rain and damaging winds pound the east coast and flooding is expected to be worse than those that ravaged the region last year.

Heavy rain and overflowing levees and rivers threatened flash flooding and landslides on the east coast from Newcastle to Batemans Bay in the state of New South Wales on Sunday, and rain was expected to increase during the night.

“If you were safe in 2021, don’t assume you will be safe tonight. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we could very well see affected areas that have never been hit by flooding before,” New South Wales Minister for Emergency Services Steph Cooke said in a televised media briefing on Sunday night.

Earlier in the day, she urged people to reconsider holiday travel as the inclement weather hit early in the school holidays.

“This is a life-threatening emergency,” Cooke said.

More than 200mm (8 inches) of rain has fallen over many areas, with some hit by as much as 350mm (13.8 inches), the Bureau of Meteorology said, warning of flood risks along the Nepean and Hawkesbury rivers. Rainfall is almost half of Sydney’s annual average.

Australia was on the sharp end of climate change, with droughts, deadly bushfires, Great Barrier Reef bleaching events and flooding becoming increasingly frequent and intense as global weather patterns change.

Camden, in south-west Sydney, was flooded and the Weather Bureau forecast water levels in the North Richmond and Windsor areas north-west of Sydney would peak higher than in the last three major flooding events since March 2021.

‘Very dangerous’

“This could get significantly worse overnight,” State Emergency Service Commissioner Carlene York said.

The heavy rains caused Sydney’s main dam to overflow early Sunday morning, water authorities said, adding that modeling showed the spill was comparable to a larger spill in March 2021 at Warragamba Dam.

“There is no room for the water in the dams. You start shedding. The rivers flow very fast and are very dangerous. And then there’s a risk of flash flooding, depending on where it’s raining,” York said.

Emergency services said they have conducted more than 100 flood rescues and responded to more than 3,000 requests for help in the past 24 hours. Evacuation centers have opened in several areas of western Sydney.

In the past 24 hours, 29 people have been rescued from the floodwaters, including a woman who held on to a pole for an hour as workers struggled to reach her.

The body of a man who fell from a kayak was dragged from Sydney Harbour, police said, adding that the circumstances were being investigated but appeared to be related to the windy conditions.

The Australian government has made 100 soldiers and two helicopters available to the state to help with any rescue operations, Defense Secretary Richard Marles said on Sky News.

Jane Golding, the weather bureau’s chief of hazard preparedness and response, said a coastal trough that has been ongoing since Friday has deepened, while an east coast low-pressure system has formed off the mid-north coast.

“That has resulted in some exceptional rainfall rates over the past 24 hours,” she said.