Updated Mar 21, 2021 - World

Thousands ordered to evacuate as "one-in-100-year" floods hit Australia

A rescue worker helps residents cross a flooded road during heavy rain in western Sydney on March 20
A rescue worker helps residents cross a flooded road during heavy rain in western Sydney on Saturday. Photo: Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images

Australia's east coast is being hit by record rainfall, with flood warnings issued and a natural disaster declared for parts of the most populous state, New South Wales (NSW).

Details: NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian told a briefing Sunday western Sydney faced a flooding event not seen for half a century, while parts of the Mid North Coast were facing a "one-in-100-year event."

  • Thousands are under evacuation orders in NSW. "Potentially another 4,000 people may be asked to evacuate in and around ... parts of western Sydney," Berejiklian added.
  • NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott told a briefing Sunday that 16 natural disaster declarations had been issued in NSW, and there could yet be more.

Of note: Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told Sky News Sunday the floods would impact the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. "Clearly there will be expected disruptions for many freight and logistic movements across NSW as a result of these floods," he said.

What they're saying: The Australian Bureau of Meteorolgy's (BOM) Agata Imielska told reporters the NSW Mid North Coast and Hunter regions had already seen rainfall records broken on Saturday by up to nearly eight inches.

  • "It's a very significant, record-breaking event with the rainfall that we have seen," Imielska said.
  • While no deaths had been reported from the flooding, Elliott said "we are moving closer and closer to the inevitable fatality."

The big picture: Much of Australia is being hit by heavy rains or under severe weather warnings. The state of Queensland was also at risk from flash-flooding, with 4.5 inches of rain falling in some parts Sunday.

  • The usually dry central Australia was another region facing flash-flooding threats from heavy rains.

Flashback: A year ago, Australia was reeling from catastrophic bushfires.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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