The floods that have wreaked havoc on Australia’s east coast will be declared a national emergency, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday, as authorities scramble to get help and supplies to the worst-affected districts.
The news: Morrison vowed extra financial support for families and businesses affected by weeks of rain that have swamped rural communities and suburbs throughout Sydney, during a visit to the devastated town of Lismore in northern New South Wales.
- The emergency declaration, which was established in the aftermath of Australia’s devastating 2019 bushfires, will help cut red tape and speed up aid from defence troops, amid criticism of the government’s tardy response to the floods, which claimed the lives of 20 people.
- “The feedback we’ve had … has helped us identify where the gaps are right now, and how we can get support out the door quickly to where it’s needed,” Morrison said, adding that the government recommended the governor-general declare the floods a national emergency.
What’s going on: A wide area of Australia’s east coast has been swamped by fast-rising floodwaters caused by a second powerful low-pressure system in as many weeks, cutting off entire communities and trapping many people in their houses.
- Residents have faulted authorities for the delayed pace and magnitude of rescue efforts after being without electricity and internet for several days.
- Major flooding is still occurring in Sydney’s western suburbs, while rains have subsided and thousands of residents in Sydney’s northeast have returned to their homes.
- The La Nina weather phenomena has dominated Australia’s east coast summer, which is normally associated with more rainfall, with most rivers nearing capacity even before the recent downpour.
- Official data revealed that Sydney has received approximately 900 mm (35 inches) of rain thus far in 2022, accounting for about 80 per cent of the city’s annual rainfall, making it the wettest start to a year since records began.
About Morrison: Morrison, who is lagging in polls ahead of a federal election in May, paid private trips to a flooded farm, an emergency crew’s headquarters, and a person who lost their home on Wednesday, according to media sources.
- Some people gathered in front of an emergency operations centre, where Morrison was scheduled to visit, chanting “the water is rising, no more compromising” and “fossil fuel floods,” according to television footage.
- Morrison’s conservative government set a goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 by the end of last year, but climate activists are calling for more aggressive action.
- Morrison was chastised two years ago for taking a family vacation to Hawaii during a fire emergency, and he was afterwards heckled by outraged residents of a bushfire-ravaged town over fire service funding and a lack of support.