RICHMOND, Australia (AP) — Hundreds of homes have been flooded in and around Australia’s largest city, leaving 50,000 people stranded, officials said Tuesday.
State emergency services manager Ashley Sullivan said overnight emergency response teams rescued 100 people trapped in cars in flooded roads or flooded homes in the Sydney area.
Days of rain have overflowed dams and breached their banks, bringing the fourth flood emergency in 16 months to parts of the city of 5 million people.
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrott said 50,000 people had been issued with evacuation orders and warnings to prepare to leave their homes, up from 32,000 on Monday.
“This event is still far away. Wherever you are please don’t get complacent. Be careful when driving on our roads. There is still a significant risk of flash flooding across our state,” Perrottet said.
The New South Wales state government activated federal financial aid for flood victims and declared a disaster in 23 local government areas overnight.
Emergency Services Minister Steph Cook praised the skill and dedication of rescue crews who prevented any deaths or serious injury during the fourth day of the flooding emergency.
Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Jonathan Howe said parts of southern Sydney received more than 20 centimeters (almost 8 inches) of rain in 24 hours, 17% more than the city’s annual average.
Severe weather warnings for heavy rain remained in place in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on Tuesday. Warnings have been extended along the coast north of Sydney and into the Hunter Valley.
The worst flooding occurred in the Hawkesbury-Nepean River system on Sydney’s northern and western fringes.
“The good news is that by tomorrow afternoon, it will be mostly dry, but we’re reminding people that these flood waters will be very high even after the rain stops,” Howe said.
“There’s been a lot of rain overnight and that’s actually seen some rivers peak a second time. So it’s going to be several days, if not a week, before you see these flood waters start to recede,” he added.
Residents in Lancevale, south-west Sydney, were surprised by the speed with which their area was flooded and the rising tide.
“Well, it happened in 1986 and 88, then it didn’t happen for 28 years, so, 2016 and 2020 and now it’s happened four times this year.,” a Lancevale local, identified only as Terry, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation television that his home had been flooded.
Wild weather and choppy seas off the coast of New South Wales thwarted plans to tow the stricken cargo ship with 21 crew members to the safety of the open sea.
The ship lost power after leaving port in Wollongong, south of Sydney, on Monday morning and was at risk of grounding with 8-metre (26-foot) waves and gusts of 30 knots (34 mph) against rocks.
When a towline broke in an 11-meter (36-foot) swell late Monday, efforts to pull the vessel into the open sea with tugboats ended, Ports Authority chief executive Philip Holliday said.
With the help of two anchors and two tugboats, the ship maintained its position on Tuesday, further off the coast than it was on Monday. The original plan was for the ship’s crew to repair their engine at sea. Halliday said the new plan was to tow the vessel to Sydney on Wednesday when the weather and sea conditions calmed down.
“We’re in a better position than we were yesterday,” Holliday said. “We’re relatively safe.”
Perrotate described the tugboat crew’s response Monday to save the vessel as “heroic.”
“I want to thank those men and women on that team last night for the heroic work they did in incredibly treacherous conditions. Having an 11-meter (36-foot) swell to do that job is incredibly impressive,” Perrottet said.
McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.