SYDNEY (Reuters) – Heavy rains in Sydney over the past five days eased on Thursday as flood-tired residents sought to return home to take stock of the damage, some for the third time this year.
A severe depression over the weekend has weakened, satellite images show, but even before the recent storm, major floods could continue for several days as rivers and dams are already at full capacity.
Water levels in the Hawksbury River west of Sydney have begun to recede, bringing relief to residents of the most affected suburb of Windsor. But heavy rains have caused flash floods along the south-north coast of New South Wales, forcing people to evacuate overnight.
“As the community returns to their homes, we are in a mixed reaction, but still responding to the growing threat along the Mid-North Coast … and the Central Coast (New South Wales),” Ashley Sullivan, deputy commissioner of state emergency services, told ABC television. “So we’ve rescued several floods that are going on right now.”
About 60,000 New South Wales residents have either been asked to evacuate or they may receive evacuation orders less than 85,000 on Wednesday. More than 30,000 people have been allowed to return home to assess the damage, authorities said.
The incessant rains have broken the July rainfall record in several areas, with some exceeding the annual average since Saturday.
Frequent floods have raised questions about how prepared Australia is for severe weather events.
Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers has instructed the Treasury to model the impact of climate change on the Australian economy, a task abandoned by previous conservative governments for nearly a decade, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported.
The weather on Australia’s east coast is dominated by the La Nina climate pattern, which is usually associated with more rainfall, the second year in a row. Although it ended in June, meteorological officials say there is a 50-50 chance it could return this year.
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
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