A ship stranded off the coast of Sydney in treacherous waters for the last three days has been saved just hours before potential disaster, as the total number of people who have been evacuated from floods reaches 85,000.
Officials say the Portland Bay ship was rescued on Wednesday and towed to port. The vessel was in danger of being smashed against the cliffs, which experts warned could have led to an “environmental disaster”.
Meanwhile, a one-off emergency cash payment of A$1,000 (£571) to those hit by the floods was announced. The number of people who had to leave their houses in Sydney and nearby areas due to severe flooding has reached 85,000 as authorities continue rescue operations.
While the storm that has lashed four days of torrential rain on Australia’s largest city slowly begins to ease, authorities say the situation “remains dangerous”.
River waters continue to be above danger levels, and officials have warned more people could be asked to leave their houses in the coming days. Earlier, authorities said those who had the option of leaving should do so without waiting for an evacuation order.
The frustration over the government’s response and repeated flooding that has hit the area was evident during the prime minister’s visit to a volunteer emergency relief shelter. “Everyone is talking about fixing the same problem … nothing has happened,” a resident of the area told Mr Albanese. “The locals are always prepared, the government is not.”
This is the third flooding episode in Australia since the start of 2022. The weather on Australia’s east coast has been dominated by the La Nina phenomenon, typically associated with greater rainfall, for two years in a row. However, experts say climate change also has a role and has intensified in the last few years.
“What we know is that Australia has always been [the] subject of floods and bushfires, but we know that the science told us that if we continued to not take action globally on climate change, then … extreme weather events would be more often and more intense,” Mr Albanese said during his visit. “What we’re seeing, unfortunately, is that play out,” he added.
Authorities say the floods could last until early next week.