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Western suburbs of Brisbane are seen flooded on March 01, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia.
Rescue helicopters had to lift people from their roofs as floodwaters roseImage: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
CatastropheAustralia

Thousands flee deadly floods in Australia

March 1, 2022

Tens of thousands of people were told to evacuate as torrential rains triggered severe flooding in southeastern Australia. The death toll has reached 10, and more people have been asked to prepare to flee.

https://p.dw.com/p/47l9d

Thousands of people were ordered to leave their homes on Tuesday due to severe flooding in Australia's southeast, and many more have been asked to prepare to flee. 

Dozens of emergency warnings are in place across the states of Queensland and New South Wales. 

Nine lives had already been lost, and a 10th body of a woman in her 80s was discovered on Tuesday in the worst flooding to have affected the region in recent times.

Military helicopters airlifted stranded people from rooftops of flooded neighborhoods in several rescue operations.

The torrential rain is heading towards the metropolitan area of Sydney, where a severe weather warning has been issued.

Rescue operations overwhelmed

Torrential rains have dumped a meter of water in some areas along Australia's eastern coast over the past week. 

Live video on Australia's public broadcaster ABC showed two people being lifted off a roof by a military helicopter, as muddy waters lapped at the corrugated metal roofing of their home.

Rescuers used flotillas of makeshift rescue boats to transport people to safer locations, as services were overwhelmed by calls for help. 

People use small boats to travel through flood water in Lismore, Australia, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022.  (Jason O'Brien/AAP Image via AP)
People had to use boats and flotillas in the town of LismoreImage: Jason O’brien/AP/picture alliance

An estimated 15,000 people in the city of Brisbane suffered flood-damaged after the Brisbane River peaked at 3.85 meters (about 12 feet and 8 inches).

Dozens of cars were trapped on a bridge in the town of Woodburn over Monday night, as both ends of the bridge were submerged. Authorities managed to rescue at least 50 people.

"We had no capabilities to get them off in the dark so we just had to make sure that they bunkered down and we went in this morning and got them all out,'' Woodburn State Emergency Services Commander Ashley Slapp told AP news agency.

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said there had been 1,000 rescues in the state by Tuesday and more than 6,000 calls to authorities for help. He added that 40,000 people had been ordered to evacuate, while 300,000 others had been placed under evacuation warnings.

Climate change causes deadly fires, heavy rainfall

The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported this week that vast regions of Australia have already lost 20% of their rainfall, and the country's fire risk has gone beyond the worst-case scenarios developed just a few years ago.

"We can see that our emergency services are struggling already to cope with the floods in northern New South Wales with people stranded on roofs without food for more than 24 hours," Lesley Hughes, an Australian academic and former lead author of the UN IPCC assessment reports, told AP. 

Devastating wildfires across southeastern Australia destroyed thousands of homes and razed 47 million acres of farm and forest land in 2019 to 2020.

Two La Nina weather patterns have since brought above-average rainfall to the same regions.

tg/nm (AP, AFP)

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