Australian authorities have issued evacuation warnings for low-lying towns in northern New South Wales (NSW) as storms ravage the country’s east coast.
On Tuesday, emergency responders said they had handled about 150 calls for help in the past 24 hours.
Huge swell ravaged the coasts of NSW and southeastern Queensland on Monday, causing major erosion.
An already exhausted beach in Byron Bay – a popular holiday destination – had all but disappeared, locals say.
Authorities said the storm had moved south on Tuesday, threatening to flood NSW’s interior.
Byron Bay beach ‘almost disappeared’ in Australia storms
They told communities around the Tweed River to evacuate Tuesday after it burst its banks. Some electricity, internet and other utility networks were also disrupted.
Meteorologists say the system has already dropped an amount of rain similar to a cyclone – about 1,000mm over four days.
Australia is currently experiencing a weather pattern in La Niña that typically brings more rain and tropical cyclones during the country’s summer.
What is the most recent?
Heavy rainfall hit a 1,000 km (620 mi) stretch of Australia’s east coast – including Brisbane and the Gold Coast – but was expected to subside late on Tuesday.
In one area, Queensland’s Upper Springbook, there had been nearly three feet of rain since Saturday, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
The NSW State Emergency Service said it had conducted 12 flood rescues so far, warning people to stay indoors and not drive through floods.
Some roads in the area between Tweed Heads and Taree had to be closed due to flooding.
On Monday, Queensland authorities warned they had seen “abnormally high” tides up to 12 inches higher than normal. All beaches in the area are closed.
Officials also recorded 8m swell and gale-force winds in excess of 104 km / h (64 mph) in Byron Bay.
As of Thursday, there have been about 2,500 calls for emergency relief in the two states, mainly for water damage to homes and for fallen trees and utility poles.
There have been no confirmed reports of injuries or deaths, but authorities said they were investigating the death of a man in a car accident on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
How bad is this again?
A La Niña season has been historically associated with increased rainfall and flooding in Australia.
Two of Australia’s three wettest years on record have been during La Niña events, and floods have been recorded in 12 of the 18 events since 1900.
Typically, La Niña sees a 20% increase in the average rainfall from December to March in eastern Australia, says the Bureau of Meteorology.
However, scientists say climate change is also amplifying La Niña’s impact and making weather patterns more erratic.
NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian – whose state was worst affected by last summer’s wildfires – said experts expected conditions to be “worse than what we’ve seen in quite a number of years.”
“I hope what we’ve seen in recent days won’t be repeated often in the summer, but it could be,” she said on Tuesday.
“I know many residents in north NSW are used to flooding, but what the bushfire season taught us last year is to expect the unexpected.”
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- New South Wales