The Australian government has declared a natural disaster in large swaths of New South Wales (NSW) as heavy rains batter the state and force thousands to evacuate. Rains have been inundating communities since Thursday, but parts of the east coast tipped into crisis on Saturday as a major dam overflowed, adding to swollen rivers and causing flash flooding.
The NSW and the federal government have signed 16 natural disaster declarations in areas spanning the central and mid-north coast, from Hunter Valley near Sydney to Coff’s Harbour, said NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott in a news conference on Sunday.
Hundreds of people have been rescued from floodwaters that have isolated dozens of towns in Australia’s most populous state New South Wales and forced thousands to evacuate their homes as record rain continues to inundate the country’s east coast.
Around 18,000 people had been evacuated from flooding in New South Wales by Monday and emergency services feared up to 54,000 people could be displaced with rain forecast to continue until Wednesday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Parliament that 35 communities in northern New South Wales had been isolated and emergency services had conducted more than 700 flood rescues.
“We are grateful at this point that no lives have been lost so far,” Morrison said. “But weakened foundations for buildings, for roads and trees, they all create risk, as do downed power lines and rising water levels.”