Officials in Australia’s eastern New South Wales state say 18,000 people had evacuated by Monday and hundreds had to be rescued after days of heavy rains have led to the worst flooding in the region in 60 years.
Aerial images from hard-hit areas showed the flood consuming rows of houses, with only their roofs above the water. In some areas, emergency workers travelled inland on "Surf Lifesaving" ocean rescue boats to reach stranded people. So far, no fatalities or serious injuries have been reported.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Parliament that 35 communities in northern New South Wales had been isolated and emergency services had conducted more than 700 flood rescues.
Just one year ago, the same region saw unprecedented wildfires following years of drought that gripped most of Australia’s most populous state.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who referred to the flooding as a “one in 100-year event,” said she could not remember a time in state history where they faced such extreme weather conditions in such quick succession – and in the middle of a pandemic.
Forecasters say heavy rain will remain in the forecast Tuesday for the state’s Mid North Coast where communities are facing the worst flooding conditions since 1929.
Australia Bureau of Meteorology flood specialist Justin Robinson said communities along the Hawkesbury River, northwest of the state capital, Sydney, were also bracing for the worst flooding in the area since 1961.
Robinson said the Nepean River levels at Penrith on Sydney's western outskirts had peaked late Sunday at a higher level than the 1961 record.