Half a million people in eastern Australia are under evacuation orders or warnings as a wild weather system inundates parts of Sydney. At least 14 people have died, and others remain unaccounted for.
Australia is well used to nature’s extremes, but these floods are extraordinary. Parts of Queensland have had almost six months’ worth of rain in just two days.
Government officials have described the extreme weather as a “1 in a 1,000-year event.”
Most, if not all, of the 2,100-kilometer coastline of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state has been hit by ferocious storms, with strong winds, dangerous surf, and unprecedented amounts of rain.
In Sydney, residents living near swollen rivers have been told to leave their homes before it is too late.
In northern New South Wales, flood-hit communities are reportedly running out of food, medicine, drinking water and fuel.
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said many communities, including those near the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney, are at risk of severe flooding.
“We do believe that things will get worse before they get better in our state, but we do expect, particularly in the Hawkesbury region, that the floods will be worse than they were last year,” he said.
Parts of Brisbane, the Queensland state capital, flooded again Thursday after yet more storms. Thousands of homes have been without power.
State premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urged parents to collect their children from school.
“This is a serious situation; it is extremely unstable weather conditions and as a precaution, we would like people to collect their children when they think it is safe to go out on the roads and do so,” she said. “But they are safe at school until they can come and collect them.”
The cleanup bill from eastern Australia’s floods is expected to run into the billions of dollars.
The Insurance Council of Australia said Thursday that more than 60,000 claims related to the disaster have been made so far.