At least eight people have died and others are missing as wild storms continue to batter parts of eastern Australia. In the state of New South Wales, residents have sought refuge from rising floodwaters on their roofs. Officials in the city of Ballina, north of Sydney, say they are bracing for a “life-threatening" one-in-500-year flood.
Janelle Saffin, a lawmaker in the New South Wales state parliament, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about her escape from a house swamped by record-breaking floods in Lismore, 725 kilometers north of Sydney.
In darkness, Saffin and two friends were forced to swim to safety.
“We went out to the veranda, hanging, sort of, on the rafters. There were three of us, and at some point, it was swim or we go under. We were scared. We were, of course. When you are standing in a house and the water is rushing up and you know no one is coming.”
Other residents have been forced to seek refuge on their roofs. Volunteers in boats answered their screams for help and have reportedly rescued dozens of people. The mayor of Lismore said the situation was “catastrophic.” A woman has told how rapidly rising floodwaters forced her to pass her children out of a bedroom window to her partner.
Officials in the nearby city of Ballina, north of Sydney, have said they were bracing for a “life-threatening" one-in-500-year flood as wild storms continued to batter parts of eastern Australia.
An evacuation order was issued, but emergency officials said that for residents in parts of Ballina, it was too late to leave. They have been urged to get to higher ground.
New South Wales premier Dominic Perrottet is urging residents to heed official advice.
“Much tragedy occurs when those instructions are not followed, particularly about driving through floodwaters. It occurs every single time we have a flood across our state. Please do not drive through those floodwaters, and if those evacuation orders are in place, please leave.”
Thousands of homes have been damaged by flooding in the Queensland state capital, Brisbane. Power supplies and roads have been cut by what officials have described as a “rain bomb.”
Military helicopters have been brought in to help rescue people trapped by some of the worst floods ever documented in Australia.
The volatile weather system is heading south and could hit Sydney — Australia’s most populous city — later on Tuesday.