Southeast Australia was still in the grip of torrential rains on Monday, exacerbating the situation on the flood front which forced thousands of people to evacuate, and caused the closure of hundreds of schools.
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Many areas of the coastline of New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, are under water, including parts of Sydney that have not seen such a rise in water levels for decades.
On Monday, eight million residents were urged to avoid unnecessary travel and to work from home when they can. Some areas received 250 mm of precipitation in 24 hours.
The contrast is stark with late 2019, when this region faced unprecedented forest fires and water restrictions, due to a long period of drought.
The researchers warned that Australia is expected to be particularly faced with extreme weather events due to global warming.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said 18,000 people had been instructed to evacuate, and 38 areas had been declared in a state of natural disaster.
“I don’t know when in history we have faced such a chain of extreme weather events in the midst of a pandemic,” she said.
Emergency services have received at least 8,800 calls for help since the start of the crisis and provided assistance to hundreds of people.
The Mid North Coast, north of Sydney, was the most affected region. Ms. Berejiklian said that this area was hit by a disaster that happens “once a century”.
Around Sydney, in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley, rivers are expected to reach levels not seen since 1961. Upstream, the Warragamba Dam, which supplies most of Sydney’s drinking water, has started to overflow on Saturday afternoon.
In some areas, residents have been allowed to return to their homes as the recession begins.
More than 200 schools have been closed.
The Meteorological Office said conditions would remain complicated on Monday, before the situation improved during the week.