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Australia Grappling With Worst Flooding in Decades, 17 Dead

Published: March 7, 2022
Floodwater surrounded properties on March 07, 2022 in Coraki, Australia. Residents of northern New South Wales are still cleaning up following unprecedented storms and the worst flooding in a decade. (Image: Dan Peled/Getty Images)

Extreme weather systems have dumped more than a year’s worth of rainfall over a week in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales bringing with it widespread destruction that has displaced thousands. To date the floods have claimed the lives of at least 17 people and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says more extreme rainfall is in the forecast.

At a televised briefing, BOM meteorologist Jane Golding said, “We are facing, unfortunately, a few more days of ongoing wet, stormy weather which will be quite dangerous for residents of NSW,” Reuters reported.   

The extreme weather follows recent flooding in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, which was hit by heavy storms last weekend which flooded several thousand properties.

On Sunday, Australian authorities said that the recovery process will likely take months and will have a negative impact on both the economy and the local government coffers. Queensland’s treasurer, Cameron Dick, said at a briefing, “For an event that lasted just three days, it’s going to have a big impact on our economy and on our budget.”

Frustration over slow flood relief

Frustration is mounting among many flood impacted residents in Australia’s east over what they say are slow relief and recovery efforts as Sydney braced for more heavy downpours.

Thousands fled the floods after torrential rains, late last month, brought widespread destruction, cutting off towns and sweeping away farms, livestock and roads. 

Prime Minister Scott Morison said, “These are terrible, terrible floods. These are floods that we have not seen in living memory in anyone’s lifetime, and even before that. And so I can understand the great frustration [we are] seeing expressed,” before announcing that more defence force personnel were being sent to flood affected areas to lead the recovery. 

Residents have largely been left to their own devices as they struggle to clear debris and sludge after water levels receded in some places. 

A resident of Murwillumbah, a town in northern New South Wales told Australian broadcaster ABC that “We’ve had a week of no communication, no food, no fuel … it has been quite unnerving and emotional.”

State Premier Dominic Perrottet, on a tour of the flood-hit regions, said the recovery could take years, Reuters reported. 

Perrottet said, “The stories that we’ve heard, the sense of abandonment that many people had in devastating circumstances is heartbreaking, and we need to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

The comments come as the Australian weather bureau issued a “severe warning” for parts of New South Wales, including the state capital of Sydney, as a second intense low-pressure system formed off the east coast. 

The BOM expects rains of up to 120 mm (5 inches) in Sydney on Monday and a further 150 mm on Tuesday.

Several suburbs in the area have already received more than double March’s mean rainfall or around 140 mm.