After three days of torrential rain, where flooding rivers submerged swaths of land and torrents of water poured out of the main dam in Australia's largest metropolis, thousands of Sydney residents were called to Monday to evacuate their homes.
"The ground is saturated, the rivers are flowing fast, the dams are overflowing," said Carlene York, a state emergency services official.
Around 32,000 people have received an evacuation order or warning in the state of New South Wales, the emergency services said.
More than 80 rescues
Australia is particularly affected by climate change, regularly hit by droughts, devastating forest fires, not to mention repeated and increasingly intense floods.
On Monday, emergency services said they had assisted more than 80 people since the previous evening.
Many people were trapped in their cars trying to cross flooded roads or were stranded in their homes surrounded by rising waters.
On Monday morning, the river's muddy brown waters had turned a large swath of land into a lake in the suburb of Camden, south-west of Sydney.
On television, images showed roads that had disappeared under water and mobile homes in the water, including at least one overturned on its side.
Large volumes of water gushed from the pressurized Warragamba dam, which supplies the majority of the city with drinking water.
Forecasters say torrential rains in New South Wales could persist for at least another 24 hours.
Off the coast of Sydney, rescuers try to come to the aid of a 150-meter-long freighter with 21 crew members on board.
A project to hoist crew members had to be postponed for safety reasons, according to police.
Australia's east coast has suffered repeated flooding over the past 18 months.
In March, flooding caused by severe storms devastated Western Sydney and claimed 20 lives.
As the planet warms, the atmosphere contains more water vapour, increasing the chances of heavy rainfall events, scientists say.
These rains, associated with other factors linked in particular to land development, promote flooding.
“Our research into the March 2021 floods in Sydney revealed that similar events over Sydney were likely to occur 80% more often by the end of the 21st century,” said atmospheric scientist Kimberley Reid. at Monash University.
Australia must prepare for more regular flooding, Dominic Perrottet, Premier of New South Wales, told a news conference.
“There is no doubt that these events are becoming more frequent,” he said.
"Governments need to adapt and ensure we respond to the changing environment in which we find ourselves."
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