SYDNEY (AP) — Thousands of residents in suburban Sydney were told to evacuate their homes Sunday after heavy rains caused flooding and rivers to overflow in what authorities called life-threatening emergencies.
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning for heavy rain and flash flooding and winds of up to 90 kilometers (55 miles) per hour along the coast of Australia’s most populous city and other parts of the state of New Wales. South.
Officials said the Warragamba Dam in western Sydney began to overflow overnight and the maximum spill would be comparable to devastating floods in March last year.
Residents of several suburbs have been ordered to evacuate, but Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke said people need not wait to be told to leave.
“If you feel uncomfortable or unsure about your circumstances, and there is an opportunity for you to leave sooner, don’t necessarily wait for an evacuation order,” he said. “If you were safe in 2021, don’t assume you’ll be safe tonight. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we could see areas affected that we haven’t seen before.”
Emergency services said they carried out more than 100 flood rescues and responded to more than 3,000 requests for assistance in the last 24 hours. Evacuation centers have been opened in various areas of Western Sydney.
Around 100 Australian Defense Force personnel helped by sandbagging and knocking on doors to warn of flood threats.
Weather bureau hazard preparedness and response manager Jane Golding said a persistent coastal trough since Friday deepened as an east coast low pressure system formed off the north central coast.
“That has produced some extraordinary rainfall rates in the last 24 hours…many places have seen up to 200mm and some close to 300mm,” he said. The volume of rainfall is almost half of Sydney’s annual average.
People were told to avoid any non-essential travel, including on public transport, with some roads already under water and others at risk of flash flooding.