Torrential rains force thousands to evacuate in Sydney

Police officers and road workers are seen in front of a submerged structure visible in floodwaters in the suburb of Windsor in Sydney Australia

The Upper Colo area in Sydney's west has been ordered to evacuate as the water levels of the Colo River, which feeds into the Hawkesbury, reach breaking point.

Roads and tracks used by freight trucks have closed across the region as Mount Dare recorded 118 millimetres of rain in 24 hours, while Moomba and Oodnadatta recorded 54 millimetres and 32 millimetres, respectively.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the downpour across the state, Australia's most populous with 8 million people, was worse than initially expected, especially for low-lying areas in Sydney's northwest.

Warragamba Dam continues to spill over, with 450 gigalitres of water a day released since the heavy rain began - roughly the same volume of Sydney Harbour.

Emergency services reported receiving more than 7,000 calls for help and carrying out about 650 flood rescues since Thursday, with reinforcements being called in from other states.

In recent years, climate change has been cited as a likely reason for a growing number of extreme weather events hitting the country.

Some parts of Sydney's western regions have suffered the worst flooding since 1961, said authorities, who expect the wild weather to last until Wednesday.

Hundreds of residents in Sydney have been forced to flee their homes as fast-rising floods engulf the area.

Authorities have warned of a potentially "life-threatening" situation though so far there have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

There were reports homes and businesses had also been damaged but Andrew Hall, CEO, Insurance Council of Australia said it was too early to understand the "extent of the damage to property in affected areas and to estimate the insurance damage bill".

"One of our focus areas is the Upper Colo, where we issued an evacuation warning overnight", she said.

The Bureau of Meteorology's Justin Robinson also warned that floodwaters at Penrith are expected to move downstream and impact communities in North Richmond, Windsor, Sackville.

Australia is due to begin the first major public phase of vaccine distribution on Monday, although the programme has slipped behind the government's announced timetable because of supply and delivery issues.

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