As areas of Australia’s southeast coast are swamped by the worst floods in decades, tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes by Tuesday, and many more have been urged to prepare to escape.
Hundreds of homeowners, some with pets, were stranded on their rooftops in the town of Lismore in northern New South Wales in recent days by a fast-rising river, while scores of automobiles were caught on a bridge in the neighboring town of Woodburn on Monday night with both bridge approaches underwater.
Officials claimed up to 50 individuals were rescued from the bridge early Tuesday.
“We had no capability to get them off in the dark, so we just had to make sure they bunkered down, and we went in this morning and took them all off,” Woodburn State Emergency Services Commander Ashley Slapp told the ABC.
Flood floods are pouring south from Queensland state into New South Wales, causing the region’s biggest tragedy since a once-in-a-century storm in 2011.
By Tuesday, New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet claimed his state had seen 1,000 rescues and more than 6,000 cries for assistance.
According to Perrottet, 40,000 people have been told to flee, with another 300,000 facing evacuation advisories.
“We’ll do all we can to get everyone to safety and get these communities back on their feet as fast as possible,” Perrottet told reporters in Sydney.
The quantity of recent rainfall in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland has been characterized as “astronomical” by government meteorologist Jonathan Howe.
With all of the fatalities in Queensland, the death toll from the current calamity has stayed at eight. On Monday, a man was killed after being caught in a car in flood water in Gold Coast city.
Emergency services were concerned about a man in his 70s who fell from his moored yacht in the state capital Brisbane into a swollen river on Saturday and a 76-year-old man who vanished with his vehicle in flood water northwest of Brisbane on Sunday, according to Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll.
The unusual downpour comes as the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced this week that wide swaths of Australia have already lost 20% of their rainfall, and the country’s fire danger has surpassed worst-case forecasts devised only a few years ago.
2019 was Australia’s warmest and driest year on record, with disastrous wildfires raging across southeast Australia. The flames killed 33 individuals immediately, and the smoke killed another 400 people.
The flames also scorched 19 million hectares (47 million acres) of agriculture and woods, destroying almost 3,000 dwellings.
However, two La Nina weather trends have provided above-average rainfall to the same areas since then.