Fresh evacuation orders were issued for thousands of Sydney residents on Monday after relentless rains flooded several suburbs in Australia’s largest city, with officials warning of more wild weather over the next 12 hours.
An intense low-pressure system off Australia’s east coast is forecast to bring more heavy rain through Monday across the southern regions of New South Wales even as several places in the state were hit with about a month’s rain over the weekend.
About 100 millimeters (4 inches) of rain could fall in the next 24 hours over a wide swathe of regions in New South Wales, from Newcastle to the south of Sydney, a distance of more than 300 kms (186 miles), the Bureau of Meteorology said.
“If you were safe in 2021, do not assume you will be safe tonight. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we could very well see areas impacted that have never experienced flooding before,” New South Wales emergency services minister Steph Cooke said in a televised media briefing on Sunday evening.
Earlier in the day, she urged people to reconsider holiday travel, with the rough weather having hit at the beginning of school holidays.
“This is a life-threatening emergency situation,” Cooke said.
More than 200 millimeters (8 inches) of rain have 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 southwest Sydney was underwater, and the weather bureau predicted water levels in the areas of North Richmond and Windsor northwest of Sydney would peak at higher levels than in the past three major flood events since March 2021.
The heavy rains caused Sydney’s main dam to spill early Sunday morning, water authorities said, adding that modeling showed the spill would be comparable to a major spill in March 2021 at the Warragamba Dam.
“There’s no room for the water to remain in the dams. They are starting to spill. The rivers are flowing very fast and very dangerous. And then we have the risk of flash flooding, depending on where the rains are,” State Emergency Service Commissioner Carlene York said.
About 70 evacuation orders are in place in Sydney as authorities urged people to leave their homes before getting stranded without power.
As tens of thousands face evacuation, frustration swelled in North Richmond and Windsor in Sydney’s west after floods submerged homes there for the third time this year.
“We are over it. We are so over it. (This) is a bit much for of us,” a flood-hit Windsor resident told ABC television.
At least 29 people have been rescued from floodwaters, including one who was hanging on to a pole for an hour as workers struggled to reach them.
The body of a man who fell out of a kayak was pulled out of Sydney Harbour, police said, adding that the circumstances were under investigation but appeared to be linked to the windy conditions.
Federal emergency management minister Murray Watt has offered more troops and said on Monday the government has activated the satellite emergency management system to help with the flood relief efforts.