Flooding in New South Wales: Parts of Australia declared natural disaster as thousands evacuated

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Rains have been inundating communities since Thursday, but parts of the east coast swung into crisis on Saturday as a major dam overflowed, exacerbating swelling rivers and causing flash floods.

New South Wales and the Federal Government have signed 16 natural disaster declarations in areas spanning the central and mid-north coast, from Hunter Valley near Sydney to Coff’s Harbor, the Services Minister said on Sunday. New South Wales Emergency David Elliott.

No deaths have yet been reported – but, Elliott warned, “we are getting closer and closer to the inevitable fatality.”

“We can’t say it enough: don’t put yourself in danger, don’t endanger the agencies that are there to assist you with flood rescue,” he said.

Some families were forced to evacuate in the middle of the night as rivers reached dangerous levels and an additional 4,000 people – mostly in the Hawkesbury area – may have to evacuate on Sunday, State Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said during the press conference.

“It’s nothing we’ve seen since the 1960s,” Berejiklian said. In the parts of the state that have been hit hardest, this is a once-in-a-century event; in other areas like the Hawkesbury area, it’s a “one-off in 50 years,” she said.

Joshua Edge and his fiancee Sarah Soars lost the house they were renting on their wedding day on Saturday. They lost everything they owned, including pets, as floodwaters passed through Mondrook, an area near the town of Taree in New South Wales, wrote Edge’s brother Lyle. , on a GoFundMe page set up to help the couple.

The page raised nearly A $ 100,000 (approximately US $ 77,000) from 1,779 people in one day. A video circulating on social media shows a house carried by flooding in the same area, but CNN could not independently verify if it was the one in which Edge and Soars lived.

“We just got blown away by the generosity of people,” Lyle Edge said in a Facebook post. “We are all very grateful and cannot [sic] thank you all. ”

A rescuer helps residents cross a flooded road in western Sydney on March 20
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Since Thursday, the State Emergency Service (SES) has responded to 7,000 calls for help and carried out more than 750 rescues in the event of a flood. Thousands of rescuers and volunteers are still on the ground, helping trapped residents.

Photos show backyards and houses half underwater and roads flooded to knee height. In the north-central town of Taree, locals rescued a cow struggling to stay afloat in rough waters; Nearby, a neighborhood house was washed away by raging floodwaters, according to CNN affiliate Seven News.
Residents watch the swelling Nepean River during heavy rains in western Sydney on March 20.

Berejiklian urged residents to follow local guidelines, stay away from roads and heed evacuation orders when necessary – even for those who live in flood-prone areas and may have already suffered severe damage. floods. “It’s different,” she warned. “What we are going through is different from what you have been going through for the past 50 years. So please take it seriously.”

Authorities do not yet know how many homes or infrastructure have been lost, but “the damage is extensive,” she said.

The declaration of natural disaster could be extended to the coast if the damage increases, Elliott said. The declaration allows those affected to receive financial assistance, including recovery from damage to homes, subsidies for affected livestock or agriculture, and low- or no-interest loans.

Entire house blows away as flash floods hit Australia's east coast

The Australian Federal Government has activated disaster relief for residents of NSW affected by the flooding, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

Those who are seriously injured, lost their home, or saw their home damaged will be entitled to $ 1,000 (approximately $ 770) for adults or $ 400 (approximately $ 310) for children.

“The terrible storms and floods that have ravaged New South Wales in recent days are wreaking havoc,” Morrison said in a video speech accompanying the post, mentioning that he was in regular contact with Berejiklian.

The Prime Minister congratulated rescuers and volunteers in his comments, urging residents of flood-affected areas to heed their advice and warnings, saying: “for now our message is very clear: ensure your safety, ensure your safety. the safety of your family and those around you. It is up to you to follow the instructions of the highly competent professional agencies and organizations and the volunteers who support them. “

Heavy rains are expected to continue into the coming week, with a band of rain expected to traverse the state from the west, bringing significant precipitation to the northern slopes of the interior and northwestern lands, said Agata Imielska of the Bureau of Meteorology. The worst-affected areas could see total precipitation more than four times the March monthly average in just two days.

Flooding on the Hawkesbury River, which flows north and west of Sydney, is expected to be as severe as a similar event in 1961, according to a statement from the Bureau of Meteorology.

More than 130 schools in New South Wales will close on Monday, with some in need of “maintenance and repair”, according to a press release from local authorities.

Wednesday will be the first day of a respite, with rains expected to turn into showers.

But the clean-up operation will still take many weeks, SES Deputy Commissioner Daniel Austin said, according to CNN affiliate Nine News. Field crews expect operations to continue “well after Easter,” and river levels will take time to decline. “We are looking at very long and prolonged operations,” he said.

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