Australia tells tens of thousands to flee floods » Capital News
Grafton (Australia) (AFP), March 1 – Deadly floods swept across Australia’s east coast on Tuesday, stranding residents on rooftops and bridges and prompting authorities to order tens of thousands to flee their homes.
Flood warnings were in effect for dozens of rivers across the states of Queensland and New South Wales, where a one-day “rain bomb” dumped a meter (3.2ft) of rain in some areas in a week.
Several rivers have already overflowed or breached levees, flooding towns and forcing residents to flee or seek refuge on higher ground.
“We’ve seen people stranded on rooftops for hours, we’ve seen children rescued, we’ve seen people stranded on bridges,” said New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet.
Eight people died and more than a thousand people were rescued. Authorities have warned that more deaths are likely.
In a spectacular rescue, a helicopter crew flew to safety as muddy waters lapped over the corrugated iron roof of their home.
Live television footage on national broadcaster ABC showed a rescuer sitting on the roof with the couple, preparing to attach them to the helicopter’s winch.
In the town of Lismore, nine people were missing amid the worst flooding on record.
Local Lismore MP Janelle Saffin had to swim to safety after being stranded in floodwaters.
“We went to the veranda, hanging on the rafters,” she told the Nine Newspapers.
– Sailing on the roofs –
Emergency services were overwhelmed with calls for help and flotillas of makeshift lifeboats fanned out across the city as people tried to get neighbors to safety.
Lismore resident Danika Hardiman was rescued on Monday after waking to find floodwaters had reached the balcony of her second-floor flat on the town’s main street.
She and her companion managed to climb onto the roof and were eventually rescued by “two guys in a boat, two locals”, she told AFP on Monday, calling the scenes in Lismore “horrifying”. .
“Imagine you’re in a boat sailing past people’s rooftops,” she said.
In total, more than 150,000 people are subject to evacuation orders, according to an AFP count.
Makeshift evacuation centers have been set up in primary schools, recreation centers and retirement clubs.
Near the town of Grafton, buildings were submerged almost to roof level, roads were washed away and livestock wandered abandoned.
Further south in Sydney, residents endured another day of torrential downpours and were warned to prepare for “major flooding”.
Australia has been at the forefront of climate change, with droughts, deadly bushfires, bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef and floods becoming more frequent and intense as global climate patterns change.