Photos Show The Devastation Of Torrential Rain And Flooding On Australia’s East Coast

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Less than 18 months after the “Black Summer” bushfire crisis that made global headlines last southern summer, Australia’s east coast is dealing with torrential rain and flooding described as a “once-in-100-year” event — with many of the affected communities the very same ones still recovering from the one-two punch of the fires and the pandemic.

A flooded park along the overflowing Nepean river in Penrith suburb on March 21, 2021. The red covers are the tops of large garbage bins.


A flooded park along the overflowing Nepean river in Penrith suburb on March 21, 2021. The red covers are the tops of large garbage bins.

Image: SAEED KHAN / AFP / Getty Images

A clashing combination of three separate weather systems brought a downpour to a huge area from March 18 onward, spanning the most populous state of New South Wales, Queensland to its north, Victoria to its south, and the Australian Capital Territory inland to Sydney’s southwest. At certain points the national Bureau of Meteorology had issued official severe weather warnings across an area roughly the size of Alaska, affecting over 10 million people. Sydney’s main water supply, the Warragamba Dam, had its first major overspill in more than 30 years, with 500 gigalitres per day at the spill’s peak — enough to fill Sydney Harbour itself — flowing out over the dam wall and into the city’s bursting rivers.


Members of the State Emergency Service transport medical supplies and relief goods to flood-affected residents during rescue operations in Windsor in northwestern Sydney on March 23.

Members of the State Emergency Service transport medical supplies and relief goods to flood-affected residents during rescue operations in Windsor in northwestern Sydney on March 23.

Image: Saeed KHAN / AFP via Getty Images

Several areas in New South Wales that endured severe fires last year, including outer Sydney’s Hawkesbury region, the Southern Highlands south of Sydney, and Port Macquarie on the northern coast, were facing evacuation warnings or orders over the course of the weekend, Monday, and Tuesday. 

Even in less severely-affected areas like metropolitan Sydney, local parks and ovals were flooded, with photographers capturing local kids in wetsuits taking to sports fields with their boards.

Kids play in the rain on a flooded oval in North Manly on March 20, 2021 in Sydney.

Kids play in the rain on a flooded oval in North Manly on March 20, 2021 in Sydney.

Image: Lee Hulsman / Getty Images

The photographer's daughter looks on at flooded oval at North Manly.

The photographer’s daughter looks on at flooded oval at North Manly.

Image: LEE HULSMan / Getty Images

While there have been no deaths so far — which NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian deemed “a miracle” — the floodwaters have required 18,000 people to be evacuated from their homes, closed schools, forced supermarkets in blocked-off communities to airlift in supplies, and will take days or even weeks to subside so that the damage to property and livestock can be assessed.

Flooded farmland on March 23 in Lismore, NSW.

Flooded farmland on March 23 in Lismore, NSW.

Image: James D. Morgan / Getty Images

Flooded farm land on March 23 in Lismore, NSW.

Flooded farm land on March 23 in Lismore, NSW.

Image: James D. Morgan / Getty Images

Australia has had its wettest summer in nearly half a decade due to the La Niña event, meaning the week’s massive downpour was falling on more saturated ground that can only absorb so much. And while it’s difficult to say decisively that the severity of the current situation is a direct result of a warming climate, scientists say exacerbating factors including warmer air (which can hold more moisture) and an overall increase in the frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall events are likely to contribute.

Ducks swim next to a submerged sign in floodwaters in the Sydney suburb of Richmond on March 22.

Ducks swim next to a submerged sign in floodwaters in the Sydney suburb of Richmond on March 22.

Image: SAEED KHAN / AFP / Getty Images

A house is seen during flooding in Richmond, north west of Sydney, Monday, March 22.

A house is seen during flooding in Richmond, north west of Sydney, Monday, March 22.

Image: Steven Saphore/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A bird sits atop a street sign next to the flooded Parramatta river on March 22 in Sydney.

A bird sits atop a street sign next to the flooded Parramatta river on March 22 in Sydney.

Image: Saeed KHAN / AFP / Getty Images

A flooded residential area in Windsor in northwestern Sydney on March 23.

A flooded residential area in Windsor in northwestern Sydney on March 23.

Image: Saeed KHAN / AFP via Getty Images

Road signs submerged in floodwaters at a residential area in the Windsor suburb of northwestern Sydney on March 23.

Road signs submerged in floodwaters at a residential area in the Windsor suburb of northwestern Sydney on March 23.

Image: Saeed KHAN / AFP via Getty Images

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