A boat navigates the swollen Hawkesbury River during a flood event northwest of Sydney, Australia. Reuters
Australians hit by devastating floodwaters began returning to their homes on Thursday as skies cleared and authorities accelerated clean-up efforts, though fresh evacuation orders were issued in some areas where water levels were still rising.
Relentless rains for five straight days - the worst downpour in more than half a century - burst river banks, inundating homes, roads, bridges and farms and cutting off entire towns in Australia’s east. More than 40,000 people were forced to move to safe zones and two men were killed after their cars became trapped in floodwaters.
Water continued to flow from overloaded dams and rivers on Thursday, particularly in New South Wales state, leading authorities to urge caution.
“Even though the sun is now shining, the danger has not passed,” the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said in a statement.
Rising floodwaters from the Mehi river split Moree, a regional town 650 kilometres northwest of Sydney, into two, emergency services said.
Major flooding also continues in Sydney’s western suburbs of North Richmond and Windsor, while fresh evacuation orders were issued for some areas in the centre of the state.
Still, there were some signs of relief as rescue teams, including defence force personnel, took advantage of eased conditions in several areas to clear debris and deliver supplies.
“The best advice I’ve received this morning is that most of the river systems we believe have peaked,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said during a televised news briefing.
“And now we are considering ... which communities are able to return back in the next few days, and we just ask for everybody’s patience.”
Around 40% of Australia’s population of 25 million was affected by the severe weather system that stretched across an area the size of Alaska in recent days, touching every mainland state or territory but one.
Several evacuation orders have been lifted, but there were still around 20,000 people waiting in rescue centres, Berejiklian said.
Images of the devastation have included rescues of families by boat, stranded cattle and submerged houses.
Fridges, lounges, pillows and even a spa bath washed away in the floods were spotted on the beaches, footage on social media showed, as muddy waters from the Hawkesbury river, a major waterway north of Sydney, reached the Tasman Sea.
The Insurance Council of Australia, the main industry body, said about 17,000 damages claims worth about A$254.2 million ($193.32 million) had been lodged by Wednesday morning.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Parliament that 35 communities in northern New South Wales had been isolated and emergency services had conducted more than 700 flood rescues.
Officials asked residents in the town of Denham, Shark Bay, 500 kilometres (311 miles) north of Perth to evacuate while sandbags were being made available to residents of Geraldton, further down the coast, due to potential storm surge.
Floods in northeastern Thailand have submerged homes, roads and bridges, leaving more than 23,000 people in evacuation shelters as anger grows over the government's “slow” emergency response.
The official said that after going through the details of the incident, the Punjab police have decided to recommend the federal and provincial government that this “dangerous game” be banned. “It is necessary to ban the game to prevent violent acts.”
Police chief said the incident was a result of "previous enmity" among neighbours. He gave no further details but media reports said a 16-year-old relative of the perpetrators had killed himself by jumping in front of a train after the married 21-year-old woman rejected his advances.
The meeting addressed recent developments, in light of the latest Houthi attacks on civilian facilities in the UAE, which threaten regional and international security. Zuzana denounced the attacks and all forms of Houthi's terrorism and threats to regional security and stability.
The charitable initiative, launched to distribute surplus food to those in need, signed a total of 30 agreements with authorities and establishments last year to facilitate the safe distribution of surplus food to beneficiaries in the emirate.