Australia’s New South Wales braces for more floods with 64 warnings

WELLINGTON (Reuters): Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales was bracing on Saturday for more heavy rain and possible floods as the tally of weather warnings rose to 64 and authorities urged people to take extreme care and avoid travel.

The rains are expected to hit Sydney and flood warnings have been issued for rivers both nearby and inland, as weather officials said that rain since Wednesday in some parts of the state raised their levels.

“There is significant risk of flash flooding right across our state,” Dominic Perrottet, the premier of New South Wales, told reporters.

“We currently have a situation where our dams are full, our rivers are full, so with heavy rain expected, we ask everybody to continue to be cautious.”

Preparations to fight the floods included Australian Defence Force and emergency services helicopters and 500 emergency services volunteers placed on standby.

There have been 10 flood rescues in the past 24 hours, the emergency service added.

Australia’s east is in the grip of a rare third straight year of the La Nina weather event, which brings more rain. With almost three months left in 2022, Sydney this week recorded its wettest year since records began in 1858.

More rain expected overnight will add to the risk of flash flooding, landslips, and fallen trees, said Steph Cooke, the state’s emergency services minister.

“We are really asking communities, especially those across Sydney this evening, to please take care,” Cooke said.

The challenge is made more daunting by expectations that roads will be busier than usual as schools return on Monday from spring break and about 200,000 spectators head home from a supercars championship.

Authorities urged motorists not to drive on flooded roads.

The rain is expected to ease on Sunday before moving offshore, although the middle of the week could bring more significant rainfall, the Bureau of Meteorology has said.

Australia’s east coast has been repeatedly hit by devastating floods this year. In March, rising waters forced tens of thousands from their homes, with at least 13 deaths.