Sydney floods inundate region; hundreds rescued as rain continues

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SYDNEY — Hundreds of people have been rescued as serious floods hit the Sydney region for the fourth time in less than a year and a half.

Days of torrential rain have submerged some suburbs — sweeping cars off roads and engulfing bridges — as authorities warned the dangerous weather would continue.

“This event is far from over,” New South Wales state Premier Dominic Perrottet warned on Tuesday. There were currently 102 evacuation orders in place statewide, including almost two dozen new ones overnight, he said, adding that evacuation orders or warnings had affected around 50,000 people.

The federal government has declared the floods a natural disaster, enabling some victims to access recovery funds. On Monday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had been briefed on the situation after a clandestine trip to Ukraine.

Australia’s east coast has experienced four major floods in less than 18 months as a persistent La Niña weather pattern has brought cooler, wetter conditions.

Sydney was already suffering its wettest year-to-date on record when 1.5 months’ worth of rain landed on the city in just the first four days of July.

A widely viewed BBC graphic captured Sydney’s soggy predicament: It showed Australia’s most populous city received significantly more rain from Friday to Monday than London — no stranger to showers — averages in a year.

One meteorologist said the city was receiving the equivalent of all the water in Sydney Harbor each day during the downpour.

“It is hard to fathom that we are seeing a rain event of this magnitude hitting this part of Australia once again,” Weatherzone meteorologist Ben Domensino told local Nine Network television on Monday.

A spokesperson for the state emergency services, or SES, said at midday Tuesday that the agency had performed 152 flood rescues in the past 24 hours, and almost 300 since flooding began in some areas on June 28. There have not been any known fatalities, she said. (The death of Sydney kayaker over the weekend was not flood-related, according to police.)

News footage showed water completely covering a bridge in the town of Windsor, northwest of Sydney.

For some Sydney residents, the flood was the third in four months.

“Where do you start? Mentally, physically, financially, it destroys you,” Judy White told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. She said she was still cleaning up from the last flood when the waters again inundated her home in the Sydney suburb of Londonderry.

Scientists say climate change is increasing the frequency and ferocity of natural disasters, including floods.

James Pittock, a climate expert at the Australian National University, told the ABC that the government should offer to buy 5,000 or 6,000 of the most flood-prone homes in western Sydney.

Perrottet said 19,000 homes were without power on Tuesday due to the heavy rains, which are expected to continue this week.

SES Commissioner Carlene York, who said the floods had “stretched” her agency’s resources, urged people not to drive unless absolutely necessary.

“If you don’t have to travel on the roads, please don’t do anything but essential travel,” she said. “It is dangerous. The waters rise very rapidly, as we saw last night. It can put you in danger and require the emergency services’ agencies to come out and save you.”

York also warned that even after waters recede, roads could remain damaged.

On Tuesday, the state’s regional transportation minister said the floods had caused a sinkhole 200 feet deep and 130 feet wide to open up next to a railway in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.

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