“The east coast of Australia, predominantly New South Wales but also in southeast Queensland, has experienced an extraordinary deluge over recent days,” he said.
Rains are expected for at least the next 24 and 48 hours, Mr Morrison said. “Some parts of New South Wales are experiencing the worst flooding in 50 years, from Penrith to the north of Port Macquarie,” he said.
Jane Golding, an official at the bureau of meteorology, warned that heavy rains will hit large parts of the east coast from Monday “due to the combination of a tropical low over northern Western Australia and a coastal trough off New South Wales”.
Rains also caused dams and rivers to overflow around Sydney and southeast Queensland. Warragamba Dam, Sydney’s main water source, spilled over on Saturday, adding to swollen rivers.
Widespread destruction has been reported in the affected areas as floods damaged roads, swept away houses and disrupted power supply.
New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian said 38 regions have been declared disaster zones. “I don’t know any time in a state history where we have had these extreme weather conditions in such quick succession in the middle of a pandemic,” she said.
Emergency services have received more than 8,000 calls for help since the rains began on Thursday and have rescued hundreds of people from floodwaters.
New South Wales State Emergency Service commander Michael Ward said several affected people don’t know what to do. “We have a number of concerns for welfare, so we’re working through those. What obviously happens is that everyone relies on the mobile phone. And when they haven’t had power for two days, they stop working,” he told ABC News.
The extreme weather conditions have also affected Australia’s drive to vaccinate its population against Covid-19. The national government has warned of delays over the coming days across New South Wales.