Tens of thousands of Australians fled their homes and authorities evacuated a hospital on Wednesday as torrential rains continued to batter the country’s east coast.
Eleven people have died since the extreme weather arrived late last week, submerging town centres, unmooring homes and cutting power lines.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have been impacted by this event,” NSW emergency services minister Stephanie Cooke told broadcaster ABC on Wednesday morning. “It is not over by any stretch of the imagination.”
The Bureau of Meteorology said Sydneysiders should brace for months of rain to fall within a few hours, as officials reported that Warragamba Dam, the city’s major water supply for Sydney, began overflowing on Wednesday morning.
The country’s weather bureau warned Sydney and surrounding regions could receive up to 200mm of rain within six hours later in the day. Sydney’s mean rainfall for March is 138 mm, according to official data.
In the northern town of Ballina, the main hospital was evacuated, ahead of an anticipated peak in the floodwaters. In Lismore, a town a little further north that was hit hard on Tuesday, residents waited for water levels to recede far enough to allow emergency services to reach them with emergency supplies.
NSW emergency crews carried out 300 flood rescues after gett