Sydney – Floodwaters had inundated or threatened the homes of 85,000 people around Sydney on Wednesday as rivers receded and heavy rains dogged north of Australia’s largest city.
As the rains eased in Sydney, several waterways, including the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system on Sydney’s northern and western fringes, remained at high flood levels, Emergency Services Secretary Steph Cooke said.
Emergency workers knocked on doors overnight in the Hunter Valley towns of Singleton and Muswellbrook, north of Sydney, to order residents to evacuate, she said.
“It was a sleepless night for many,” Cooke said.
Evacuation orders and official warnings to prepare to leave their homes had been issued to 85,000 people by Wednesday, up from 50,000 on Tuesday, New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said.
On the fifth day of the flood emergency, Perrottet warned homes that had stayed dry in previous floods could be flooded this week.
“This event is far from over. Please don’t let these past experiences influence your current behavior,” Perrottet said.
Federal funds would be available to flood victims starting Thursday, less than two days after a disaster was declared in 23 local government areas, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.
“This is, in my opinion, the fastest these payments have ever been approved,” Albanese said.
Albanese said the fourth major flood event in and around Sydney since March last year, which followed devastating wildfires in the same region in the southern hemisphere summer of 2019-2020, is evidence of the need for climate action.
“We are looking for long-term solutions. My government changed Australia’s position on climate change from day one,” he said.
The centre-left Albanese Labor Party was elected in May on a pledge to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 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 affected by floods and bushfires, but we know that science has told us that if we continued to do nothing globally about climate change, then… there would be more extreme weather events often and more intensely. And what we’re seeing, unfortunately, is this game,” Albanese added.
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 like building taller river levees, Albanese said.
Jane Golding, chief of the Bureau of Meteorology, said the weather pattern that has brought heavy rain to Sydney since Friday has moved away from the coast north of the city of 5 million.
Heavy rain fell as far as Coffs Harbour, 450 kilometers from Sydney, over the past 24 hours, Golding said.
McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.
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