Floods engulf Australia as climate disasters continue


SYDNEY – Gianni Vitellon watched the climate disasters that have frequently hit Australia in recent years – first Forest firesand then flood. But he never thought he would be affected by the country’s increasingly volatile weather in his neighbourhood, just seven miles from downtown Melbourne.

After the eviction order came with a knock on the door at 5 a.m. on Friday, the 38-year-old travel agent went to work, as usual. From his office, he watched the flood reports with growing disbelief, as aerial photographs showed the waters from the nearby Maribyrnong River rising to 13.7 feet, well above the standard for a major flood on that river.

That night, he puts on a pair of waders and opens the door in the house in which he lives with his wife, three children, and mother-in-law to find that everything they own is lost.

“I don’t know how anyone can say it’s not climate change,” he said, reflecting on his debris-strewn yard on Tuesday. Broken furniture and household items lined the street, waiting for garbage collectors.

Floodwaters have displaced thousands of people in recent days across eastern Australia, where most of its 25.5 million people live. Floodwaters in the southern state of Victoria alone could inundate or isolate up to 34,000 homes, according to official forecasts. The authorities have warned residents in some areas of this ‘It’s too late to leave’ The floodwaters also approached 40 feet.

The unseasonal deluge was very unusual. October – the start of bushfire season below – is usually accompanied by hot, dry conditions. But Australia is experiencing an exceptional case rare The third year in a row from La Niña An oceanic and atmospheric phenomenon that usually leads to above-average rainfall to the east of the country. a Periodic cooling of the western Indian Oceanassociated with La Niña, also contributes to increased precipitation.

Sydney broke rainfall records dating back more than a century This month, with three months remaining in the year. Parts of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, have been flooded several times in the past two years. At least 20 people died, and thousands had to evacuate when devastating floods Parts of New South Wales and Queensland were flooded in late February and early March. Two people were killed in the recent floods.

Australia’s flood, powered by climate change, made history in Sydney

The country is subject to major weather fluctuations, but scientists say the recent rains are unusual because they fell across almost the entire continent – It is slightly smaller than the neighboring United States – In the past two weeks. Many dams and rivers are at full capacity.

“Usually our rain events are regional rather than national,” said Margaret Cook, a flood historian at the University of the Sunshine Coast. “Thick bundles of clouds crossed the desert, carrying moisture evaporating from the seas off northwest Australia.”

Researchers Say Climate change is exacerbating the situation. Australia has warmed by about 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) since 1910. A warmer atmosphere retains more moisture and can increase the intensity of extreme precipitation events.

The recent floods were followed by a period of severe drought, along with intense heat waves, which helped fuel the catastrophic wildfires In 2019 and early 2020. An increasingly volatile climate is making it difficult for residents in some disaster areas to rebuild: about 1 in 25 Australian homes are at high risk of becoming uninsurable by 2030, According to the Climate CouncilIt is an independent advocacy group.

“If the current situation in the eastern states is not a sure sign, we need to reconsider where and how our homes are built, there is a long and choppy road ahead,” said Trevis Moore, a sustainable housing expert at RMIT University in Melbourne. . “The majority of current and new housing in Australia is not suitable for operation in our current climate.”

Paul Williamson, 63, who lives across the road from Vitellon, a travel agent, in Melbourne’s inner Maribyrnong neighborhood, said he chose not to buy flood insurance two weeks ago because of the nearly $10,000 annual rate.

The musician lost the piano that could not be moved from the floodwaters path, as well as the emotional elements and texts of his partner-actress. “But it was a good opportunity to get rid of a lot of crap,” he said sarcastically.

Policy makers say more must be done to avoid development in disaster-prone areas, as Australia’s new centre-left government suggests planning and development regulations can be ready for reform. The hot housing market has stimulated many new real estate developments in recent years, including floodplains. some were paused While governments are reviewing their flood strategies.

Officials have warned that it will be weeks before the floodwaters recede in some areas as they make their way through the country’s extensive network of rivers. Another storm system is expected to develop over central Australia, which could lead to more severe thunderstorms, Heavy rain And floods to already saturated areas this week.

“We are living in very dangerous times in the coming days and weeks,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters during a visit on Monday to a flooded town in western New South Wales.

Vinal reported from Melbourne, Australia. Jason Samino in Washington contributed to this report.

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