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Thousands are to evacuate Sydney as heavy rains bring a ‘life-threatening emergency’

An intense low-pressure system off Australia’s east coast is expected to bring heavier rain to southern regions of New South Wales through Monday, although around a month of rain hit several places in the state over the weekend.

About 100 millimeters (4 inches) of rain could fall over a wide swath of regions in New South Wales over the next 24 hours, from Newcastle to south of Sydney, a distance of more than 300 km (186 miles), according to the Bureau of Meteorology said.

“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 experienced 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 200 millimeters (8 inches) of rain has fallen over many areas, with some hit by as much as 350mm, the Bureau of Meteorology said, warning of flood risks along the Nepean and Hawkesbury rivers.

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.

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The heavy rains caused Sydney’s main dam to spill 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 more room for the water in the dams. They start sloshing. The rivers flow very fast and are very dangerous said Commissioner Carlene York.

About 70 evacuation orders have been issued in Sydney as authorities urged people to evacuate their homes before being stranded without power.

While tens of thousands face evacuation, frustration swelled in north Richmond and Windsor in western Sydney after flooding swamped homes there for the third time this year.

“We’re over it. We’re so over it. (That) is a bit much for us,” a flood-affected Windsor resident told ABC Television.

A local takes a picture of a flood-stricken street in Camden, south-west Sydney, on Sunday July 3, 2022.

At least 29 people were rescued from the floodwaters, including one who hung from 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.

Federal Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt has offered more troops and said Monday the government had activated the satellite emergency management system to help with flood relief efforts.