The death toll from Australia’s east coast’s week-long floods climbed to at least 20 on Tuesday when the remains of a man and a woman were discovered in floodwaters in Sydney.
The couple was “suspected” to be a missing mother and boy whose car was found abandoned in a stormwater canal, according to police.
As violent rains and flash flooding overwhelmed swaths of Australia’s largest metropolis, tens of thousands of Sydney residents were advised to leave their homes.
According to emergency services, 60,000 people are subject to evacuation orders and advisories across the impacted districts, as the national weather agency predicted “a tough 48 hours ahead” for Sydney.
Intense rain swamped bridges and residences around Sydney, carried cars away, and even caused the roof of a store to collapse.
On Tuesday, the Manly Dam in the city’s north began to spill, forcing 2,000 inhabitants to flee.
Vehicles were partially buried in the riverfront neighbourhood of Georges Hall, and police had to rescue people trapped in their automobiles due to rising floodwaters.
As the torrential rain and violent storms persisted for a second week, state emergency services were stretched thin, with flood warnings issued on Tuesday for New South Wales’ entire 2,000-kilometer (1,250-mile) coastline.
“It’s the watery equivalent of the ‘Black Summer’ bushfires,” Phil Campbell, a spokesman for the emergency services, told media.
The magnitude of property and wildlife devastation in the previous week was comparable to the destructive bushfires that plagued Australia’s east for months in late 2019 and early 2020, he added.
“We’ve also seen a comparable effect on communities in terms of displacement,” Campbell added, citing road closures, infrastructure damage, and power outages.
Emergency services have been called to 100 water rescues around the state in the last 24 hours, with the number set to climb as the storms’ full fury bears down on Sydney.
A lengthy, slow cleaning is underway in the northern areas of New South Wales, where floodwaters damaged homes, washed away automobiles, and stranded hundreds of residents on their roofs this week.
According to state emergency services commissioner Charlene York, there are 800 persons in emergency accommodation in the state’s Northern Rivers district alone.
Almost half of the 5,000 flood-damaged homes evaluated in the aftermath of the disaster are uninhabitable, according to rescue officials.
“Lots of people on my street can’t get flood insurance,” said Casey Whelan, a resident of Mullumbimby, which was shut off from phone service, internet, and outside help for days due to the floods.
“They won’t be able to rebuild,” he said.
Droughts, fatal bushfires, bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef, and floods have all become more common and intense as global weather patterns shift, putting Australia at the forefront of climate change.