Thousands told to evacuate Sydney as heavy rain poses ‘life-threatening emergency’

New evacuation orders were issued Monday for thousands of Sydney residents after relentless rains flooded several suburbs of Australia’s largest city, with officials warning of more wild weather in the next 12 hours.

An intense low-pressure system off Australia’s east coast is expected to bring more heavy rain into the southern regions of New South Wales through Monday, although several places in the state were hit by about a month of rain over the weekend.

About 100 millimeters (4 inches) of rain could fall in the next 24 hours over many regions of New South Wales, from Newcastle to southern Sydney, a distance of more than 300 km (186 miles), the Bureau of Meteorology said.

“If you were safe in 2021, don’t assume you’re safe tonight. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we could very well see affected areas that have never experienced flooding before,” New South Wales emergency minister Steph Cooke said in a televised media briefing Sunday night. .

Locals rescue furniture from a home threatened by flooding in Camden, South Western Sydney, July 3, 2022.

Earlier in the day, she urged people to reconsider holiday travel, with the bleak weather at the start of the school holidays.

“This is a life-threatening emergency,” Cooke said.

More than 200 millimeters (8 inches) of rain has fallen in many areas, some of which have hit as much as 350 mm, the Bureau of Meteorology said, warning of flood risks along the Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers.

Camden in Sydney’s southwest was flooded and the weather bureau predicted that water levels in the North Richmond and Windsor areas of Sydney’s northwest would peak at higher levels than in the last three major floods since March 2021.

The heavy rain caused Sydney’s main dam to flood early Sunday morning, water authorities said, adding that modeling showed the spill would be similar to a major spill in March 2021 at the Warragamba Dam.

“There is no room for the water to stay in the dams. They start to spill. The rivers flow very fast and are very dangerous. And then we have the risk of flash flooding depending on where the rain falls,” said state emergency commissioner Carlene York.

About 70 evacuation orders are in effect in Sydney as authorities urged people to leave their homes before they were left without power.

As tens of thousands are evacuated, frustration has mounted in Sydney’s western North Richmond and Windsor after houses there flooded for the third time this year.

“We are over it. We’re so over it. (This) is a bit much for us,” a flood-affected Windsor resident told ABC television.

A local snaps a photo of a flood-flooded road in Sydney's South West Camden, Sunday, July 3, 2022.

At least 29 people have been rescued from flooding, including one that was hung from a pole for an hour as workers struggled to reach it.

The body of a man who fell from a kayak was recovered from Sydney Harbour, police said, adding that the circumstances were under investigation but appeared to be related to the windy conditions.

Federal emergency management minister Murray Watt has offered more troops and said on Monday that the government has activated the satellite emergency management system to assist with flood relief.

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