Australia’s rooftop rescue operations as tens of thousands evacuated from flooding

Eight people have died and the country’s weather bureau has warned of more severe thunderstorms and heavy rains causing “life-threatening flash floods” in part of the central Pacific coastal region.

A Queensland Fire and Rescue Swift Water Rescue crew moves through the flooded streets in the Brisbane suburb of Paddington on February 28, 2022. Image: Patrick HAMILTON/AFP

BRISBANE — Tens of thousands of Australians were urged to flee their homes on Monday when torrential rain pushed flood waters to record levels, leaving residents stranded on the roofs of their homes.

Eight people have died and the country’s weather bureau has warned of more severe thunderstorms and heavy rains that will cause “life-threatening flash flooding” in part of the central Pacific coastal region.

In the rural town of Lismore, resident Danika Hardiman woke up Monday morning to find mud-brown floodwater had reached the balcony of her second-floor apartment.

She and her partner managed to climb to the roof, where they were spotted by passing kayakers waving down a makeshift lifeboat.

“We were rescued by two guys in a boat, two locals,” Hardiman told AFP, describing the scenes in Lismore as “terrible”.

“Imagine you’re in a boat sailing past people’s rooftops,” she said.

“The scary thing is that this is just the beginning, there’s still a lot of rain to come.”

As the city’s dikes had already been breached, 43,000 residents were ordered to leave the city by this morning.

Emergency services were overwhelmed with calls for help, prompting some locals – including Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg – to take to social media for help.

“If anyone has a boat and can get to Engine Street, there’s a pregnant woman sitting on their roof. Please HELP,” he posted on Facebook on Monday.

Emergency services said they also used a helicopter to get other stranded residents off rooftops.

More than 400 millimeters (16 inches) of rain has fallen around Lismore in the past 24 hours, with the city’s Wilson River still rising, according to the Weather Bureau.

Water levels in Lismore are yet to reach an expected high of 14 meters – but it’s already the worst flooding the city has seen.

A MIRACLE RESCUE

Floods in eastern Australia have now killed eight people after a man in his 50s died on Monday when his car was swept away by floodwaters in the northern state of Queensland.

Millions of people have been urged to stay home and nearly 1,000 Queensland schools remain closed because of the flooding.

A 70-year-old man miraculously survived after his houseboat, swept away by the raging Brisbane River, collided with a ferry terminal and quickly sank.

Members of the public were able to save the man, with one telling public broadcaster ABC they linked arms to form a human chain and fished the man out of the river unharmed.

“To be honest, I don’t know how he survived that,” said viewer Matthew Toomey.

Rain has battered eastern Australia for almost a week as an extreme weather system – the end of a wet summer fueled by La Nina – swept south along the country’s coast, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said Monday some regions of her tropical state had experienced a year’s worth of rain in just a few days.

Australia has been on the sharp end of climate change, with droughts, deadly bushfires, Great Barrier Reef bleaching events and floods becoming more frequent and intense as global climate patterns change.

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