Tens of thousands of Sydney residents have been told to evacuate their homes as floods ravage eastern Australia. Streets become rivers amid shocking deluge as Manly Dam spills and Roseville bridge flooded, with evacuation orders covering more than a dozen suburbs.
Tens of thousands of Sydney residents have been forced from their homes as floods unleashed carnage across Australia’s largest city and claimed the lives of a mother and son.
Australia’s death toll from the east coast floods rose to 21 on Tuesday as a massive stretch of the New South Wales coast endured dangerous winds and heavy rains, causing landslides and wild surf conditions as the second east coast low in a week moved in.
About 50,000 people were told to leave their homes across NSW including 40,000 residents in more than a dozen Sydney suburbs including the northern beaches.
Two bodies were discovered in western Sydney on Tuesday morning – a 67-year-old woman and her 34-year-old son from Wentworthville. Their abandoned car was found earlier and their deaths took the NSW toll to eight. Thirteen people have died in Queensland’s floods.
The worst of the NSW flooding on Tuesday affected Sydney’s northern suburbs and northern beaches. Roseville Bridge, which crosses Middle harbour, was inundated, trapping cars and causing major delays.
Residents in low-lying areas below Manly Dam were urged to evacuate as the NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, warned the dam had begun spilling, potentially affecting about 2,000 people in 800 homes.
The State Emergency Services later amended the order to an evacuation warning as water levels at the dam dropped slightly.
In nearby Dee Why, water up to a metre deep surged down a main thoroughfare.
At Mackellar girls campus in Manly Vale, students watched cars float past the windows in deep water. One parent at the school said her daughter had to wade through water to get out of the school.
“An email was sent about 1pm advising us to pick up kids from Quirk Road,” the parent said. “They were calling kids’ names as we arrived over the loudspeaker to leave.
“Water was over the top of cars and spilling into the bottom levels of the lower blocks. My daughter had to walk through knee-deep water to get out as she was in the hall.”
There were 64 evacuation orders in place on Tuesday evening from the Kempsey CBD in northern NSW down to the Illawarra region south of Sydney, with a further 17 evacuation warnings affecting another 18,000 people.Advertisementhttps://90d4216dd026c523d2427e6ab9fd1431.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Among the latest orders was one for Narrabeen on Sydney’s northern beaches which were being hammered by hazardous surf that will last into Thursday for a lot of the NSW coast.
The Bureau of Meteorology updated its warning for damaging winds and heavy rain for an area ranging from near Newcastle southwards towards Bega.
“Damaging winds averaging 60 to 80 km/h with peak gusts of about 110 km/h are possible over the coastal fringes of the Illawarra and Sydneymetropolitan districts this evening,” the BoM said.
Heavy rainfall threatened to cause flash flooding in the southern parts of the Hunter, Sydney metro region, Illawarra and northern parts of the south coast districts, the BoM said. Rainfall totals in the next six hours could be between 70mm and 100 mm.
Sydney itself has had its wettest start to any year, with 821.6mm as of Tuesday morning, well ahead of the nearest rival period in 1956, a Weatherzone meteorologist said. By Tuesday evening, the tally had risen by another 41mm.
Some of Tuesday’s heaviest falls were centred on the northern parts of Sydney, with 102mm recorded at Monavale Golf Club in the three hours to 3.30pm. Other big totals included 124mm at Forestville over a six-hour period and 128.5mm at Mosman in a similar timeframe.
Authorities closed many of the main roads surrounding the Georges River in the south-west of the city, including Henry Lawson Drive and Milperra Road, with entire sections of streets completely underwater.
The three major routes into the northern beaches were closed to all traffic, shutting thousands of residents out of the CBD.
Many residents could only watch on as the water swallowed up their homes and cars. Thousands of residents in the south-west were ordered to evacuate on Monday night as heavy rain caused rivers to swell.
The usually bustling Newbridge Road in Sydney’s south-west was closed by authorities, with the river having risen up to 3.65 metres earlier on Tuesday, and with the water reaching up to 1.5 metres in homes.
Angelo Testa and Oliver Bucha were steering their dinghy along their street in Chipping Norton, helping neighbours and transporting supplies.
Testa, a boat broker, said the first level of his parent’s home was completely underwater, and that it was the second time in three days their home had flooded.
“We got about a metre and a half of water, it’s the second time in three days, it’s been absolutely crazy,” Testa said. “But it is what it is. Water comes up, then goes down.
“We had a guy walking through last night, with water up to his neck. We picked him up and took him to the end of the street, we’ve had people stuck in their houses, who had initially decided to wait out the flood but found they couldn’t.”
Anthony Lippis, who lives just off Newbridge Road, said the water came into his home “in a flash”.
“I lost my car, and we didn’t have enough time to save it,” Lippis said. “It’s heartbreaking.
“Every time this happens we need to move everything up a level, and it is exhausting, it’s devastating for everybody.”Advertisement
The Blue Mountains was declared a natural disaster area as landslips and collapsed roads caused havoc for commuters.
A BoM spokesperson said the thunderstorms were slow-moving.
“Intense rainfall that may lead to dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding is likely,” they said.
Dean Narramore from the BoM said it had been a “devastating week” for the state, with the conditions not expected to ease until Thursday.
“Both the Hawkesbury River and the Nepean River are in danger of major flooding with many locations experiencing levels equal to or greater than what we saw in March of 2021,” Narramore said.
There were 25 flood warnings in place across NSW from the mid-north coast to the south coast, while all but two of the state’s major dams were at 100% capacity.
At Kempsey, the Macleay River was expected to peak at 6.3 metres on Tuesday evening near the major flood level of 6.6 metres.
The last time flood waters reached that level was in the 2013 floods when the river reached 7.1 metres. Other rivers, including the Hawkesbury-Nepean, were flooding at levels exceeding last week and surpassing March 2021.
At North Richmond, the Hawkesbury River was expected to reach about 14.2 metres on Tuesday evening, with higher rises possible.
The SES had conducted 147 flood rescues in the 24 hours to 4pm on Tuesday with almost 3,000 calls for assistance. Nearly 900 people were in temporary accommodation.
Perrottet said there needed to be “frank assessments” of the state’s disaster mitigation strategies once the severe weather event had subsided.