Torrential rains hit Sydney; flood warnings stretch across Australia’s east coast

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SYDNEY (REUTERS) – Flood warnings stretched across Australia’s east coast on Tuesday (March 8) and tens of thousands of Sydney residents fled their homes overnight as torrential rains again pummelled a large swathe of the country.

Australia’s eastern rivers were already near capacity following record downpours in several parts of Queensland and New South Wales states over recent weeks, cutting off towns, and sweeping away farms, livestock and roads.

Nineteen people have been killed, most either in flooded homes or in cars attempting to cross flooded roads, since the deluge began.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Dean Narramore said minor to major flooding was occurring from the Queensland to Victoria border, a distance of more than 1,555km.

“A tough 24 hours or even 48 hours ahead,” Narramore said during a media briefing on Tuesday as he forecast up to 120mm of rains across Sydney over the next 24 hours, with the storm clearing by late Wednesday.

Heavy rains lashed Sydney overnight with some suburbs receiving up to 200mm since Monday morning, exceeding March’s mean rainfall of around 140mm. It triggered flash flooding and snap evacuation orders in the southwest of the city.

Emergency services estimate around 70,000 to 80,000 people in Greater Sydney face evacuation orders, although they do not expect everyone to follow them.

“People make decisions based on past history and I think this event has shown that there is no past history similar to this event,” New South Wales Emergency Service Commissioner Carlene York told reporters.

Frustration was growing among many flood-hit residents in both states over slow relief and recovery efforts, with power and Internet still down in several towns as emergency crews tried to clear roads to deliver essential supplies.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is trailing in polls ahead of a federal election due by May, said on Monday more defence force personnel were being sent to flood-affected areas.

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