Mass evacuations were ordered in low-lying areas along Australia’s east coast Saturday as torrential rains caused potentially “life-threatening” floods across a region already soaked by an unusually wet summer, officials said.
Police said hundreds of people had flocked to evacuation centers in areas north of Sydney in New South Wales state, and they expected many more to seek shelter as the rains move south down the coast.
The Bureau of Meteorology reported flooding levels surpassing record 2013 floods along the Hastings River outside Port Macquarie, about 400 kilometers (240 miles) north of Sydney.
Towns in the area have already seen record rainfall of more than 300 millimeters (12 inches) since Friday morning, the bureau said.
It warned the heavy rains were forecast to continue through Saturday “potentially leading to life-threatening flash flooding”.
The flood and extreme weather warnings stretched from Port Macquarie to areas 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Sydney, where residents were urged to stay indoors due to the flash flooding risk.
Emergency services reported receiving more than 500 calls for help and carried out some 180 flood rescues overnight in the north of the affected area.