Australian authorities are planning to evacuate thousands more people on Monday from flooded towns in the Sydney region, which is set for its worst flooding in 60 years.
Unrelenting rains over the past three days swelled rivers in Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales (NSW), causing widespread damage and triggering calls for mass evacuations.
“We need to brace ourselves, it will be a very difficult week,” NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.
The torrential rain, which has submerged large swathes of NSW, is in stark contrast to the weather conditions in the same region a year ago, when authorities were battling drought and catastrophic bushfires which killed millions of wild animals.
Days of torrential downpours across New South Wales have caused rivers and dams to overflow.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has offered funds for those forced to flee.
Forecasters predict that the Hawkesbury river, north-west of Sydney, will reach its highest level since a devastating flood in 1961, on Monday.
And the Warragamba Dam, Sydney’s main water source, is overflowing for the first time in years.
On Sunday, a young couple in New South Wales saw their house swept away by flash floods on what should have been their wedding day.
Shocked neighbours filmed the uprooted three-bedroom cottage being carried down the swollen Manning river after it burst its banks following flash floods.
Waters are not expected to subside until Thursday.
Seven emergency shelters have opened across the state to protect about 1,000 people in western Sydney who have been forced to leave their homes.
Several thousand more in the Hawkesbury-Nepean valley could be evacuated in the coming days, as roads and bridges have been cut off and more than 100 schools closed.
Flights have been suspended at Newcastle airport, 117km north of Sydney.
“What we’re going through now is different to what you’ve been through for the last 50 years, so please take it seriously,” Berejiklian said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “This weather event has settled in, it’s not moving on.”
Jamisontown resident Ellen Brabin told ABC News that she had not seen floods as severe as this in more than 40 years.
“I’ve seen all the floods and stuff, and never had to move before so this is different,” she said.
There are also warnings from meteorologists that two weather systems could collide on Monday night or Tuesday morning, creating a “last blast” of rain and storms that could last until Wednesday.