SYDNEY– Rescuers plucked more than 100 people from their roofs on Monday after a flash flood swamped a small Australian town and sent residents scurrying for safety, officials said.
A weekend downpour over much of the already-sodden eastern state of New South Wales (NSW) sent waters rising overnight, isolating some towns and communities.
Australia’s east coast has been repeatedly swept by heavy rainfall in the past two years, driven by back-to-back La Nina cycles.
Many people in the town of Eugowra, with a population of about 800 people lying 350km west of Sydney, scrambled to their roofs to flee the latest flood.
Mud-brown floodwaters have transformed the town into a murky lake dotted with the tops of buildings and trees, television images showed.
“We have had 140 flood rescues in Eugowra alone. More than 100 of these were rescues from a roof,” said the state’s Emergency Services Minister Stephanie Cooke.
Stranded residents had been taken to safety by boat and helicopter, she told a news conference.
“This is a very serious situation, not just in Eugowra but in many places,” Ms Cooke said.
New Zealand had sent 12 people on Monday to help battle the state’s floods, she said.
NSW emergency services were also in contact with US and Singaporean authorities to secure further support, she said.
“I would ask people to heed that warning: We can see how quickly the waters can rise, how quickly flash flooding happens, and the devastation it causes,” said Ms Carlene York, the NSW emergency services commissioner.
Emergency workers had carried out 173 flood rescues since early Monday, she said.
Molong, about 300km north-west of Sydney and home to more than 2,000 people, was another town hit by heavy flooding. Footage on social media showed a shipping container and household items floating down the town centre.
“Almost every shop went under,” Mayor Kevin Beatty told radio station 2GB. He said what appeared to be a shipping container or a caravan was stuck on the highway near the town, making it harder for emergency crews to reach Molong.
In a sign of the intensity of the thunderstorms, more than 150,000 lightning strikes had reached the ground in 24 hours across New South Wales, the bureau of meteorology said.
The town of Forbes, which lies a short distance west of Eugowra, had been lashed with 118mm of rain in 24 hours – its highest daily rainfall in 28 years, the bureau said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Twitter the flash flooding was “creating dangerous conditions” and that the federal government was working closely with the states on rescue efforts.
The east coast flooding disaster in March – caused by heavy storms in Queensland and New South Wales – claimed more than 20 lives.
Tens of thousands of Sydney residents were ordered to evacuate in July when floods again swamped the city’s fringe.
Scientists believe climate change could make periods of flooding more extreme because warmer air holds more moisture. AFP, REUTERS