SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Torrential rains kept battering Australia's east coast on Tuesday (July 5), intensifying the floods crisis in Sydney as thousands more residents were ordered to leave their homes overnight after rivers swiftly rose past danger levels.
About 50,000 residents in New South Wales, the bulk in Sydney's western suburbs, have been told to either evacuate or warned they might receive evacuation orders, up from Monday's 30,000, state Emergency Management Minister Steph Cooke said.
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet told reporters: “This event is far from over, please don’t be complacent.
“Wherever you are, please be careful when you’re driving on our roads. There are still substantial risks for flash flooding.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who returned to Australia Tuesday after a week-long trip to Europe, said he would tour the affected regions on Wednesday along with Mr Perrottet.
Some regions received 800mm of rain since Saturday, eclipsing Australia’s annual average rainfall of around 500mm.
About 90mm of rain could fall over six hours in the state’s mid-north coast from Tuesday, reaching up to 125mm in some places, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said.
Winds up to 90 kmh are also forecast in several flood-hit places, raising the risk of falling trees and power lines.
Major flooding is occurring at Windsor in Sydney's west, which is going through its third flood this year, with current water levels higher than seen in the deluge early this year, BoM said.
Footage on social media showed submerged roads and bridges, while emergency crews rescued stranded people from partially-submerged vehicles that became stuck in rising waters.
Mr Nigel Myron, a Windsor resident, said he has kept an inflatable boat ready if he had to evacuate though he is looking to move back to his place once waters recede.
"At the end of the day, what can you do? It is what it is and we dust ourselves off from the ashes and rebuild after the floods have come and gone," Mr Myron told ABC television.
Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers warned the economic impact from the floods “will be substantial”.
Floods have likely inundated several food-producing regions and that would hit supplies and lift prices, further straining family budgets already reeling under soaring prices of vegetables and fruits, Mr Chalmers said.
“There’s no use tiptoeing around that... that inflation problem that we have in our economy will get worse before it gets better. It’s got a lot of sources, but this (flood) will be one of them,” Mr Chalmers told Sky News, ahead of an expected rate hike decision by the Reserve Bank of Australia.
The Reserve Bank of Australia flagged the floods “are also affecting some prices” as it raised its cash rate a hefty 50 basis points on Tuesday and flagged more tightening ahead to tame surging inflation.
The Insurance Council of Australia, which declared the floods a ‘significant event’, urged affected people to apply for claims, even though the full extent of damage was unknown now.
The federal government late on Monday declared the floods a natural disaster, helping flood-hit residents receive emergency funding support.