Australia to declare east coast flooding a national emergency

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A tree is knocked down in a park following an overnight storm in the suburb of Stanmore in Sydney, Australia, March 9, 2022. REUTERS/Jane Wardell

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SYDNEY, March 9 (Reuters) – Floods that have devastated Australia’s east coast will be declared a national emergency, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday, as authorities seek to deploy emergency aid and supplies to the most affected areas.

Morrison, during a visit to the devastated town of Lismore in northern New South Wales, also pledged increased financial support for people and businesses affected by weeks of rain that have submerged rural towns and Sydney suburbs.

The emergency declaration, which was put in place after Australia’s devastating 2019 bushfires, will help cut red tape and speed up aid for defense personnel amid criticism over a slow flood response in which 20 people died.

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“The feedback we’ve had…has helped us identify where the gaps are right now and how we can quickly deliver support where it’s needed,” Morrison said in a statement. The government had recommended to the governor general to declare the floods a national emergency, he said.

Morrison, who is trailing in the polls ahead of a federal election ahead of May, on Wednesday made private visits to a flooded farm, the office of an emergency crew and also met with a person who lost their home, according to media reports.

Television footage showed people gathered outside an emergency operations center, where Morrison was due to go, shouting “water rising, no more compromise” and “fossil fuel flooding”.

Morrison’s Conservative government late last year adopted a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but climate campaigners are demanding more aggressive action.

Two years ago, Morrison was criticized for taking a family vacation to Hawaii during the fire emergency and was later heckled by angry residents of a bushfire-stricken town over the financing of the fire services and the lack of assistance.

Much of Australia’s east coast has been inundated after a second intense low pressure system in as many weeks led to rapidly rising floodwaters that cut off entire communities and trapped many people in Their houses.

Frustrated residents, without access to electricity and the internet for several days, blamed authorities for the slow and extensive relief efforts. Read more

Major flooding continues in Sydney’s western suburbs, although thousands of residents in Sydney’s northeast have returned to their homes after the rains subsided.

“Thankfully the rain has subsided and we will see the water levels continue to slowly drop over the next few days,” Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Dean Narramore told reporters.

Australia’s east coast summer was dominated by the La Nina weather phenomenon, usually associated with higher rainfall, with most rivers nearing full even before the last flood.

Sydney has received nearly 900mm (35 inches) of rain so far in 2022, around 80% of its annual rainfall, according to official data, the wettest start to the year since records began.

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Reporting by Renju Jose; edited by Richard Pullin

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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