SINGAPORE - A 16-member team from the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) elite unit left for Australia on Wednesday to assist in rescue efforts after heavy storms over the weekend caused flooding in the south-eastern state of New South Wales (NSW), decimating a town of about 800 people and killing at least one person.
SCDF said in a Facebook post that the Singaporean contingent led by Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Dart) commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Lok Wee Keong, left the Republic at about 9pm on a flight arranged at short notice by flag carrier Singapore Airlines.
The contingent, Operation Lionheart, also includes Lieutenant Sabree Dusuki and Lieutenant Ahmad Faizal, who each have more than 25 years of operational experience with Dart.
An operations support officer and 12 other Dart officers, who have advanced lifesaver skills, advanced diver and rescue diver certifications and powered pleasure craft licences, are also flying to NSW to support the flood rescue efforts being conducted there, SCDF added.
They were sent off by Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who is the Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development.
Over the past few weeks, parts of eastern and southern Australia have been hit with severe flooding due to heavy downpours, cutting off towns and leaving thousands of people homeless and tens of thousands without power.
The deluge has also destroyed crops and damaged agricultural industries in some of the country’s biggest food-producing regions.
Hundreds more homes are expected to be inundated this week and more than 1,000 people were evacuated as water levels rose quickly overnight, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Tuesday.
Rescue teams in NSW are currently mounting what they said is the largest flood emergency response in the state’s history. They were joined on Monday by 12 emergency workers sent from New Zealand.
It was earlier reported that the state’s emergency services were also in contact with the authorities in Singapore and the United States to secure further support.
On Monday, more than 100 people in the town of Eugowra, 350km west of Sydney, had to be rescued from their roofs as floodwaters destroyed 21 buildings and damaged 216 others.
The body of a 60-year-old woman who had gone missing was found on Wednesday, while search continued for a missing 85-year-old man, local police said.
This is the fourth major flood crisis that has hit eastern Australia this year as the country faces its third consecutive La Nina weather event, typically associated with increased rainfall.
In March, flooding in NSW and the state of Queensland killed at least 20 people, caused mass evacuations, and resulted in damage worth at least A$5 billion (S$4.6 billion).