Thousands could be forced to flee their homes as heavy rain hits Australia’s east coast – with emergency crews warning Sydney’s five million residents to be alert to the conditions and to brace for travel disruption.
A man was found dead in his car after being swept away in a deluge, police said on Thursday – with the region being battered by its third intense weather system in just six weeks.
Residents of a nursing home were among those evacuated as emergency crews warned the city’s five million residents to avoid unnecessary travel and brace for possible evacuations.
A severe weather warning was issued along the south coast of New South Wales stretching more than 600km (373 miles) as almost a month’s rainfall was dumped on Sydney overnight on Thursday – causing rivers to burst their banks, leaving entire towns submerged and without power.
Authorities had said they expected conditions to begin easing from Thursday evening.
However, Warragamba Dam, Sydney’s major water supply, could still spill over on Friday.
Acting commissioner for New South Wales emergency services, Daniel Austin, told a media briefing: “This is a highly dynamic situation. These events are moving exceptionally quickly.”
“Exceptionally sharp, short bursts of rain” created flash flooding almost every hour, he added.
Many residents in Sydney’s western suburbs were ordered tofollowing the city’s wettest March on record.
More than 4,000 residents are facing flood evacuations.
One suburban resident told ABC television how the weather “came up again out of nowhere”, describing the situation as “heartbreaking”.
Emergency crews and residents now face a huge task to clear tonnes of debris in the wake of the devastating weather.
Sydney has received 1,227 mm (48 inches) of rain so far this year, more than its average annual rainfall of 1,213 mm.
Meanwhile beach hotspot Bondi recoded around 170 mm over the 24-hour period to 9am Thursday local time, according to official data.
Australia’s east coast has been impacted as a consequence of the La Nina weather phenomenon, typically associated with increased rainfall, for the second year running – with most rivers reaching capacity even before the latest drenching.