Heavy rain triggered evacuation orders in Sydney on Thursday, as swollen rivers threatened homes and flooded roads in the latest wild weather to lash Australia’s east.
Residents in several suburbs of Sydney’s south and southwest were told to leave for safety as fast-flowing rivers rose.
“We have seen exceptionally sharp, short bursts of rain that have created significant flash flooding events around parts of the Illawarra,” New South Wales State Emergency Service deputy commissioner Daniel Austin said.
“We ask the community to continue to be vigilant. This is a highly dynamic situation. These events are moving exceptionally quickly.”
Images from around Sydney showed submerged roads, cars struggling through floodwaters and debris flowing rapidly down rivers.
Woronora resident Belinda told national broadcaster ABC that the river was flowing faster than she had ever seen.
“A little nervous, our property’s up quite high so it’s not much danger of us being flooded but for those properties that are a bit lower, it’s a real worry,” she said.
Major flood warnings were issued for several suburbs in the south of Sydney, while the entire city of five million was warned of potential flash flooding into the weekend.
NSW emergency services said they had responded to more than 680 calls for help from people affected by the weather so far.
The deluge is the latest to hit the region and comes less than a week after huge waves pummelled the coastline, with surf swallowing entire beaches including the famous sands of Bondi.
Large parts of Australia’s east coast have been inundated by heavy rain for months. Residents in the hardest-hit areas are still recovering from floods that swept through in March.
The extreme weather, driven by the La Nina weather system and worsened by climate change, has raised further questions about Australia’s disaster preparedness.