SYDNEY (REUTERS) – Australian authorities on Friday (March 4) warned of more rains over the weekend in several flooded regions in the country’s east, likely hampering relief efforts as defence personnel try to reach worst-hit towns cut off by days of downpours.
A wild weather system that dumped more than a year’s worth of rainfall over a week in several places in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales brought widespread destruction, leaving thousands of people displaced and sweeping away property, livestock and roads.
Thirteen people have been killed since the deluge began.
Flood evacuation warnings were revised down for some parts in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, but the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said a new weather system could bring another round of heavy rains from Sunday.
“That is not good news for us here in eastern New South Wales and for much of the state…things are already saturated,” BoM meteorologist Dean Narramore said during a media briefing on Friday.
Australia’s east coast summer has been dominated by the La Nina weather pattern, typically associated with increased rainfall, with many rivers already near capacity before the latest drenching after steady rains over the last few weeks.
Emergency services warned that thunderstorms and isolated heavy showers will continue to create additional risks.
“We’ve not passed the danger period yet. The rivers are very high, fast flowing, there’s a lot of debris and it’s dangerous out there,” said state emergency service commissioner Carlene York.
Thousands of Australians, meanwhile, returned to their homes and businesses on Friday to clear debris and sludge after water levels receded amid a pause in rains.
In the northern New South Wales town of Lismore, among the worst hit by record floods, Mayor Steve Krieg said hundreds of troops and emergency crew will help lead rescue efforts on Friday.
“Several people (are) still unaccounted for, and search and recovery will be occurring today,” he said in a Facebook post.