03 March 2022

500,000 people on flood alert as rain lashes Sydney

03 March 2022

Around 500,000 people in Sydney and its surrounds had by Thursday been told to evacuate or prepare to flee floodwater as torrential rain lashed an extraordinarily long stretch of Australia’s east coast.

Rivers were rising in the country’s most populous city, home to five million, with New South Wales’ state emergency services minister Steph Cooke warning of “treacherous weather conditions” over the next 24 hours.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology warned of life-threatening flash flooding and damaging winds with peak gusts in excess of 56mph (90kph).

Buildings in Londonderry on the outskirts of Sydney are surrounded by floodwater (Rick Rycroft/AP) (AP)

Major flooding was expected along several rivers in and around Sydney and dozens of suburbs were on high alert.

The State Emergency Service issued evacuation orders to 200,000 residents and evacuation warnings had been sent to another 300,000.

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet urged residents to take the orders seriously.

“We do believe that things will get worse before they get better,” he said.

State emergency staff near the entrance to the flooded Windsor bridge on the outskirts of Sydney (Rick Rycroft/AP) (AP)

Minor flood warnings were also issued for coastal communities as far as 120 miles (200km) south of Sydney.

Floodwaters were also rising in Brisbane, Australia’s third-most populous city, 450 miles (730km) north of Sydney, as severe thunder storms struck.

Hailstones 2in (5cm) wide pounded the town of Inglewood, 170 miles (270km) south-west of Brisbane, early on Thursday, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Extraordinarily heavy rain brought flash floods to the Queensland coast 310 miles (500km) north of the state capital, Brisbane, last week and a south-moving low-pressure system had since brought the rain south of Sydney.

Young boys get out of a boat in a flooded street at Londonderry on the outskirts of Sydney (Rick Rycroft/AP) (AP)

The flooding has claimed 14 lives in Queensland and neighbouring New South Wales since February 22, when the body of a 63-year-old woman was recovered from a submerged car at Belli Park, north of Brisbane.

In New South Wales, a 54-year-old man was discovered in a submerged SUV in Matcham, 50 miles (90km) north of Sydney, on Friday.

Most recently, a man in his 70s was found in his flooded apartment in Lismore, New South Wales, on Wednesday. Four people died in the town which has a population of 28,000.

Several Brisbane suburbs remain flooded after the river that snakes through the city centre peaked on Monday.

Around 500,000 people in Sydney and its surrounds have been told to evacuate(Rick Rycroft/AP) (AP)

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Assistant Commissioner John Cawcutt said hundreds of people were calling for help in Brisbane – home to 2.6 million people – and its surrounds, with heavy rain causing flash flooding.

“We’ve got high winds and of course we’ve got the potential for flash flooding because of the already sodden ground out there,” he told Nine Network television.

“Because of the saturation, creeks are rising very, very quickly – drains, stormwater areas, water is bubbling up from below ground so it’s right across Brisbane,” he added.

An emergency worker stands by a flooded road (Rick Rycroft/AP) (AP)

He described the dangerous weather extending north of Brisbane and south of Sydney as an “enormous event”.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Laura Boekel said thunderstorms brought the chance of more flooding, extending 280 miles (450km) north from Brisbane to Bundaberg during the next day or two.

“This is a very dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation for south-east Queensland,” she said.

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