MONDAY, MARCH 22
As wild weather continues to savage NSW forcing thousands of people to flee their homes amid widespread flooding, the state’s Emergency Services Minister David Elliott today said the Australian Defence Force was being called in to help.
Mr Elliott told Sky News specialist personnel are expected to arrive in next 24 hours as there are fears for communities on the Mid-North Coast, the Hawkesbury valley and western NSW.
More than 150 schools are closed across the state
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said flooding in parts of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River system, which almost encircles Sydney, has reached levels not seen since 1961.
Since the heavy rain began, 450 gigalitres of water a day have been released from the Warragamba Dam — comparable to the contents of Sydney Harbour, which is about 500 gigalitres.
NSW SES Deputy Commissioner Daniel Austin said there had been over 2,000 calls for help in the last 24 hours.
“We have a pretty wide area of focus at the moment, all the way from the Mid-North Coast right the way down into the Sydney Metro area, and across the Mid-North Coast today we are expecting to see the return of some heavy rainfall in locations,” he said.
Parts of south-east Queensland were battered by more than 240 millimetres of rain yesterday following major flooding, with the weather bureau warning of the possibility of more significant falls on the way.
Wild weather lashed large swathes of the Gold Coast and Brisbane, flooding homes and roads, with backyards turned into rivers as 113 millimetres of rain were dumped on some Gold Coast suburbs in one hour.
She said heavy rain could be possible across Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast at any time today.
NSW SES Commander Michael Ward said there had been more than 300 flood rescues, with over 1,000 people so far rescued.
He acknowledged that many flood-affected people had been left in the dark about what to do.
“We have a number of concerns for welfare, so we’re working through those,” he said.
Mr Elliott said while the State Emergency Services (SES) were the “primary agency” fighting the floods, the ADF would be used to assist with amphibious vehicles and other assets available only to the federal agency.
“They will be using whatever assets they have available,” Mr Elliott said.
Mr Elliott emphasised the ADF would be more heavily depended on in assisting with the clean up once the floods end.
“That’s exactly what happened after the bushfires,” he said. “I assume that is something that will occur after this event after we see how much damage has been done.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government was ready to respond to any requests for assistance from state and territories.
He said he was expecting requests today.
“We are readying ourselves for that,” he told 2GB. “We’ve had, on standby, helicopters and others to support with search and rescue and that has been happening for the last few days.
“The NSW government has very, very good and significant resources and capable agencies to deal with the floods and they’ve got that in hand and should they need anything further, I have no doubt they will request it … and we will move very quickly.”
Mr Morrison added Australia was dealing with the pandemic and historic floods, but he had no doubt the country would come together.
“It’s a matter of pulling through together once again.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed it is providing consular assistance for two Australian nationals in Myanmar.
It is understood business consultants Matthew O’Kane and Christa Avery, a dual Canadian-Australian citizen, are under house arrest after trying to leave the country on a relief flight on Friday, reports newsagency AFP.
The couple run a bespoke consultancy business in Yangon.
Matthew O’Kane and Christa Avery, a dual Canadian-Australian citizen, who are based in Yangon.(Supplied)
“Due to our privacy obligations, we will not provide further detail,” DFAT said.
A third Australian, economist Sean Turnell, an advisor to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi who was arrested a week after the putsch, also remains in custody.
Professor Turnell with ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.(Supplied: LinkedIn)
Weekend violence failed to deter hundreds of doctors and nurses from donning hard hats and brandishing posters of Ms Suu Kyi as they marched at dawn through Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city and cultural capital.
Mandalay has been the scene of some of the worst violence from police and soldiers since the coup and local media said the rally was staged at dawn to evade security forces.
The protests came a day after a local monitoring group confirmed the killing of four protesters at the hands of security forces around the country.
Two of the deaths were in Yangon, the country’s commercial hub, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Katherine Diaz Hernandez, a 22-year-old surfer who dreamt of competing at the Tokyo Olympics, was killed by a lightning strike at a beach in El Salvador over the weekend.
Diaz was entering the water at El Tunco, a beach on the Pacific coast, around 5pm when the lightning hit her.
Members of the public rushed to her aid before an ambulance arrived and took her to hospital but she could not be revived.
Diaz, who worked as a chef, was training for a global competition set to be held in El Salvador that is serving as the last qualifying event before surfing’s debut at the Olympics this year.
She had recently named La Bocana at El Tunco Beach as her favourite wave.
“I just found out about the death of Salvadoran surfer Katherine Díaz,” said Yamil Bukele, president of the Salvadoran Sports Institute. “I am very sorry for this death and I join the pain that overwhelms her family. Our solidarity with ‘el Bamba’ and the surf family. Peace for your soul.”
Her brother, Bamba Diaz, has posted several tributes in the wake of her death.
“Sister we will always carry you in our hearts,” he wrote. “God decided to take you now. We already miss you. Love forever.”
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