Australian authorities called on thousands of suburban Sydney residents to evacuate their homes on Sunday after heavy rains kicked up floodwaters in what authorities called a life-threatening emergency.
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning of heavy rain, flooding and winds up to 90 kilometers per hour along the coast of Australia’s most populous city and other parts of the state of New South Wales.
Authorities said the Waragamba dam in western Sydney began overflowing during the night, and that the peak of the wave would be similar to the devastating floods that hit the area in March last year.
Residents in a number of suburbs have been ordered to evacuate, but Emergency Management Secretary Steve Cook said residents do not need to wait to be told to leave.
“If you feel uncomfortable or unsure of your circumstances, there is an option to leave early without having to wait for an eviction order,” he added.
The emergency authorities said they had carried out 29 rescue operations in the past 24 hours and opened evacuation centers in several areas of western Sydney.
Around 100 Australian Defense Force personnel helped with the evacuation by placing sandbags and warning of the threat of flooding.
A lingering coastal front has deepened since last Friday, while a low pressure system has formed on the east coast off the north central coast, said Jane Golding, Bureau of Meteorology director of risk preparedness and response.
“This has resulted in unusual precipitation over the past 24 hours. In several places, up to 200 millimeters of rain fell, and in some places it was about 300 millimeters,” she added.
This rainfall is about half of the average annual value for Sydney.
Authorities have urged residents to avoid all non-essential travel, including public transport, as some roads are already flooded and others are threatened by flash floods.