Authorities in Sydney, Australia are warning of a potential disaster Wednesday as torrential rains that have battered eastern Australia in recent days have triggered flash flood warnings in the country’s second-largest city.
Evacuation orders have been issued for several areas in western Sydney with forecasters predicting the city will be hit with as much as 20 centimeters of rain between late Wednesday and early Thursday. Authorities say Warragamba Dam, the main water source for the city of 5 million residents, began overflowing Wednesday morning.
The rains have inundated several towns and cities in the states of Queensland and New South Wales, leaving city streets and homes submerged under several centimeters of water. At least 13 people have been killed, four of them in the hard-hit town of Lismore, located nearly 800 kilometers north of Sydney, the capital city of New South Wales. The victims include a man in his 70s who was found in his flooded home, while the body of another man was found floating in the street in downtown Lismore.
Emergency crews in Lismore and other towns have carried out numerous rescues of residents trapped in their homes by the rising floodwaters, with many desperately climbing onto rooftops waiting for help.
Australia’s east coast summer has been dominated by the La Nina climate pattern, which is typically associated with greater rainfall.
Hilary Bambrick, a professor and environmental expert Queensland University of Technology, says the current rains shows Australia is “unprepared for the supercharged weather” driven by climate change, despite “decades of warnings” from scientists.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse.