After fires, Australia gets ready for floods, more climate change calamities
Published: Dec 13, 2020 06:08 PM

Photo taken on Nov. 11, 2019 shows the bushfire in Taree in New South Wales, Australia. (Xinhua/Bai Xuefei)

Just days after bushfires threatened an Australian World Heritage site, thousands were bracing for floods on the subtropical east coast on Sunday, with beaches closed and the authorities urging people to sandbag their homes.

With as much as 475 millimeters of rain in the previous 24 hours, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a "severe weather warning" for the border area between New South Wales and Queensland states, a heavily populated area that includes the Queensland state capital Brisbane.

A week earlier, nearby Fraser Island was evacuated due to bushfires, dashing hopes that wetter weather would make seasonal fires less catastrophic than 2019. Scientists attribute the erratic weather in the early Australian summer to a La Nina pattern combined with climate change.

Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island, is now under the flood warning, which includes urging drivers to avoid roads where waters were already rising.

"These are dynamic weather systems and you should always expect the unexpected," bureau senior flood hydrologist Justin Robinson told a news conference.

The warning comes soon after Queensland opened its border to the neighboring state after months of closure due to COVID-19. The authorities urged people traveling for end-of-year holidays to exercise caution since they may not be familiar with flood-prone areas.

Emergency services had rescued four people and received about 700 calls for help, said New South Wales emergency services commissioner Carlene York.