Richmond (Australia) (AFP)
Residents affected by flooding along Australia’s east coast began a massive cleanup effort on Thursday as the waters receded, revealing damaged homes, piles of debris and mud-covered roads.
The region was devastated by widespread flooding caused by a torrential downpour that inundated towns, destroyed farmland and killed two.
Rain clouds finally dissipating to reveal blue skies, thousands of people from Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, have returned home to assess the damage.
Hundreds of soldiers and volunteer firefighters have stepped up their efforts in sprawling communities, digging mud from roads and using chainsaws to clear property debris.
Ben Shepherd, an inspector with the Rural Fire Department, said the teams wanted to “try to bring communities back to a certain sense of normalcy as soon as possible”.
“This is going to be a protracted event that will potentially take weeks, even months – in some areas,” he told AFP.
In the vast flood zone, many communities remain cut off by swollen rivers and it was still dangerous for around 20,000 people to return home.
Authorities pleaded with residents to remain vigilant around the floodwaters.
“We think most river systems have peaked, but we are concerned about complacency,” Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said.
“Unpredictable flows will continue to occur in communities that have not seen this amount of rain for 50 or 100 years. ”
– Damaged houses, businesses –
Emergency services have responded to more than 11,000 calls for help since the disaster that struck late last week, saving nearly 1,000 people from flood waters.
Police on Wednesday said they found the remains of a 25-year-old Pakistani trapped in his car in a six-meter (20-foot) flood in northwest Sydney.
Hours later, Queensland Police said divers found a second man dead in an overturned vehicle in a Gold Coast river.
The flooding has spread to parts of the outback, including Moree, where TV footage showed the inner city split in two by a river that erupted on Thursday.
Meteorologists predict that sunshine will continue in the worst-hit areas over the coming week.
But near Sydney, near the overflowing Hawkesbury River, the focus remains on transporting food, medical supplies and other essentials to remote areas.
When the floods hit, many were still suffering from prolonged drought and bushfires that were unprecedented just over a year ago.
Some coastal areas received one meter (three feet) of water in a week, equivalent to two-thirds of normal annual precipitation.
Scientists have warned that Australia can expect more frequent and extreme weather events due to climate change.
© 2021 AFP