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Updated: Heavy rain forces parts of Sydney to evacuate, downpour to continue

Updated: 9.15am (AEDT), 22nd March
Melbourne, Australia


Heavy rains along Australia’s east coast over the weekend have brought the worst flooding in half a century in some areas, authorities said on Sunday, forcing thousands to evacuate and damaging hundreds of houses.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the downpour across the state, Australia’s most populous with eight million people, was worse than initially expected, especially for low-lying areas in Sydney’s north-west. 

“Yesterday, we were hoping it will only be a one-in-20-year event, now it looks like a one-in-50-year event,” Berejiklian said at a televised briefing.

Australia NSW Taree floods2

A still image taken from video shows people looking at trucks stuck in a flooded road, following heavy rains in Taree, New South Wales, Australia, on 20th March. PICTURE: NSW State Emergency Service/via Reuters

People in parts of Sydney’s north-west were ordered to flee their houses in the middle of the night as fast-moving waters caused widespread destruction. Berejiklian said another 4,000 people may still be asked to evacuate.

Television and social media footage showed fast-moving water unmooring houses, engulfing roads, breaking trees and damaging road infrastructure. Emergency services estimate the total number of damaged houses to be “in the hundreds”. 

Several major roads were closed across the state while many schools called off classes for Monday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a Facebook post announced federal financial assistance for those affected.

The flooding comes in stark contrast with the devastating bushfires that struck Australia in late 2019 and early 2020, when nearly seven per cent of NSW land was scorched.

Flooding risk and evacuation warnings were in place for about 13 areas in NSW, including the Hunter, one of Australia’s major wine regions. 

Several dams, including Warragamba, Sydney’s main water supply, spilled over causing river levels to surge. 

Australia NSW floods

A still image taken from video shows a flooded area following heavy rains in Taree, New South Wales, Australia, on 20th March. PICTURE: NSW State Emergency Service/via Reuters.

Meteorologists said the downpour is set to continue for the rest of Sunday, with some areas expected to get up to 200 millimetres of rain.

The extreme weather has also affected Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine delivery to across NSW, disrupting the country’s plans to deliver the first doses to almost six million people over the next few weeks.

On Sunday, Australia’s medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, granted approval for locally produced AstraZeneca vaccines.

The Australian Government has purchased 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to be manufactured locally.



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