MELBOURNE (REUTERS, AFP) - Sydney, Australia's most populous city that has been drenched in rain for days, braced itself for more heavy downpours on Sunday (March 6) as the death toll from flooding across the country's east rose to 17.
A wild weather system that dumped more than a year's worth of rainfall over a week in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales (NSW) brought widespread destruction, leaving thousands of people in the states displaced and sweeping away property, livestock and roads.
Seventeen people have been killed since the deluge began, including a Queensland woman, whose body was found on Saturday, according to police.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) of NSW said a new weather system could bring another round of heavy rains across NSW, of which Sydney is the capital, raising the risks of flooding.
"We are facing, unfortunately, a few more days of ongoing wet, stormy weather which will be quite dangerous for residents of NSW," BOM meteorologist Jane Golding said at a televised briefing.
In the north of New South Wales, the Clarence River remained at a major flood level, but Ms Golding said that the severe weather appeared likely to clear from Wednesday onwards.
In Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, and surrounding areas that were hit by heavy storms last weekend and flooded several thousand properties, the cleanup continued over the weekend.
The national weather bureau warned of severe thunderstorms and major flooding in Queensland, with flash flooding forecast for Brisbane, home to 2.6 million people.
The process of recovery will take months, the authorities said on Sunday, while donating more than A$2 million (S$2 million) to different charities.
"For an event that lasted just three days, it's going to have a big impact on our economy and on our budget," Queensland's treasurer Cameron Dick said at a briefing.
Some locals in flood-affected areas have taken to social media to vent frustration about what they see as a lack of police, defence personnel and emergency services on the ground to help with the recovery effort.
In Lismore, NSW, Mr Tom Wolff, who runs a local charity organisation, said he spent Saturday collecting donations of insulin, which were then delivered by a privately chartered helicopter to diabetic residents in the nearby town of Woodburn.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton on Sunday defended the work of his department in the aftermath of the record flooding, saying he was “absolutely satisfied with the defence response”.
“We’ve come in in force, and we will increase the numbers dramatically,” he said, promising there would be 5,000 troops on the ground in the coming days.
Scientists say climate change is making Australia’s floods, bush fires, cyclones and droughts more frequent and more intense.