Australian floods kill two, more evacuations as clean-up begins

State Emergency Service, New South Wales police and local residents help load supplies onto police and SES boats on March 24, 2021.
State Emergency Service, New South Wales police and local residents help load supplies onto police and SES boats on March 24, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (AFP, XINHUA, REUTERS) - A man’s body was found in a car trapped by floodwaters on Wednesday (March 24), the first death linked to wild weather across Australia in recent days that has submerged houses, swept away cars and livestock and cut off entire towns.

Authorities are trying to contact the family of a Pakistani national whose body was found by emergency services in a car under six metres of water in Sydney’s northwest.

Police had determined the man was driving a brand new car, on the first day of a new job and unfamiliar with the rural area, New South Wales Police Detective Inspector Chris Laird told media. The reason he could not get out of the vehicle was being investigated.

“It could very well be that the electrics totally failed and he was simply unable to escape from the car which is an absolute tragedy,” Laird said.

Media also reported police found a second body in an upturned utility vehicle in floodwaters in Queensland state.

In some other areas, a massive clean-up operation began as sunny skies returned for the first time in days, and food and other emergency supplies were flown in over swamped roads.

"We're certainly not out of the woods in terms of the immediate flood danger, but we have to turn our minds to how we start the clean-up and the recovery," said New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

The easing of weather conditions means that relief efforts could focus on "making sure that people who are isolated do have the basic products to get on with life", she said.

Ms Ailsa Jones, resident of Wheeny Creek, a city north-west of Sydney, said there was a crazy lack of supplies, with no essentials available in supermarkets since Sunday.

"Any shop is just stripped bare. It's horrible," she told public broadcaster ABC. "We're just on spaghetti and 2-minute noodles. I'm rationing the kids out just to make sure that it lasts."

The government said that help is on the way, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying on Wednesday that heavy-load helicopters would be prepared to transport food to supermarkets where supplies are running short.

In Sydney's north-west, a local community campaign has also started sending supplies including water, food and beer to stranded residents, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Officials also said that rescue boats were shifting their focus to delivering food and essential supplies to residents cut off by flooding, bolstering efforts that began in areas close to Sydney on Tuesday.

The government said hundreds of troops would be deployed from Thursday to support recovery efforts.

"Their job will be out there cleaning up, making sure that we get rid of the debris...making it easier for those who are going through the recovery process," said Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud.


Australian PM Scott Morrison inspects damages created by floodwaters from an Australian Army helicopter, on March 24, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

Relentless downpours over the past week have caused catastrophic flooding in Australia's most populous state of New South Wales, with parts of suburban north-west Sydney still under water.

Tens of thousands have fled their homes in recent days, and thousands more remained on evacuation alert with water levels on some rivers not expected to recede until Saturday.

Emergency services have responded to more than 11,000 calls for help in recent days, rescuing at least 950 people from floodwaters.


The flooded Windsor Bridge in the Windsor suburb of north-western Sydney, on March 24, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

Thousands are still without power and energy providers have warned that electricity will not be restored in the worst-affected areas until later in the week.

Wild weather and flooding also hit outback areas of New South Wales on Tuesday and even extended into built-up parts of Queensland state to the north.

In the Central Tablelands west of Sydney, Mr Peter Cserhalmi has been unable to get back to his family farm, where farming machinery, cars and personal belongings have all been destroyed, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

"I got into the house and it's just upside down," he told the Herald. "It was like a bomb had gone off inside."