About 32,000 people were forced to evacuate amid heavy rains and flooding in the Australian state of New South Wales Sunday. File Photo by Mick Tsikas/EPA-EFE
July 3 (UPI) -- Tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate New South Wales Sunday as heavy rains caused flooding throughout the southeastern Australian state.
The New South Wales State Emergency Service has ordered or advised about 32,000 people to evacuate their homes as rain hammers the region and has caused the Warragamba Dam to spill at a high rate.
Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke said the state was facing a "life-threatening emergency" caused by an east coast low weather system that is expected to remain for several days.
"This means even more torrential rain, it means strong damaging winds, and it means coastal erosion in Sydney, the Central Coast, the south coast and the Illawarra," she said. "We are now facing dangers on multiple fronts ... If you live anywhere between Newcastle and Batemans Bay, please don't be caught unaware by the current weather situation."
A total of 41 evacuation orders and 44 evacuation warnings were issued to communities in the Illawarra, Western Sydney and Hawkesbury-Nepean areas.
Cooke urged that residents should not wait for an evacuation order given the rate of spillage from the dam.
"If you were safe in 2021, do not assume you will be safe tonight. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we could very well see areas impacted that have never experienced flooding before," she said, referring to floods in the region last year.
NSW SES Commissioner Carlene York warned residents in affected areas to prepare for the situation to get worse overnight, stating that hundreds if not thousands more homes may be subject to evacuation warnings and potential flooding in the coming days.
"We ask that those communities really be aware of the messaging that we're putting out," she said. "There are thousands of people that are affected by what we're looking at tonight."
A man died in Sydney after falling out of a kayak on the Parramatta River. Police pulled the man out of the water in an attempted rescue but he died at the scene.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said that authorities had witnessed "distressing scenes" throughout the state, adding that the government has "mobilized significant resources and all relevant agencies to get help to those in need."
"Times like these are difficult. It will test our resilience. But it is also in these times that we see the best in people and the best in our communities," said Perrottet.