SYDNEY– Floodwaters had inundated or threatened the homes of 85,000 people around Sydney on Wednesday as rivers began to recede and heavy rain moved north of Australia’s biggest city.
As the rain eased across Sydney, several waterways, including the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system on Sydney’s northern and western fringes, remained at major flood levels, the Minister for Emergency Services said. , Steph Cooke.
Rescue workers knocked on doors overnight in the towns of Singleton and Muswellbrook, in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney, ordering residents to evacuate, she said.
“For many it’s been a sleepless night,” Cooke said.
Evacuation orders and official warnings to prepare to abandon homes were given to 85,000 people on Wednesday, up from 50,000 on Tuesday, New South Wales state premier Dominic Perrottet said.
On the fifth day of the flood emergency, Perrottet warned that homes that remained dry in previous floods could be inundated this week.
“This event is far from over. Please don’t let this past experience influence your current behavior,” Perrottet said.
Federal funding would be available for 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, I believe, the fastest these payments have ever been approved,” Albanese said.
Albanese said the fourth major flood in and around Sydney since March last year, which followed devastating wildfires in the same area in the 2019-20 Southern Hemisphere summer, was proof 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 reduction of between 26% and 28%.
“What we know is that Australia has always been prone to flooding, bushfires, but we know science has told us that if we continue to fail to act, globally, on climate change, then… extreme weather events would be more often and more intense. And what we’re seeing, unfortunately, is that it’s playing out,” 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 such as the construction of river levees higher, Albanese said.
Bureau of Meteorology Director Jane Golding said the weather patterns that have brought heavy rain to Sydney since Friday have moved off the coast to the north of the city of 5 million.
Heavy rain has fallen in the past 24 hours as far north as Coffs Harbour, 450 kilometers (280 miles) from Sydney, Golding said.
McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.