Task force joins clean-up in flood-prone Aus state

A task force of more than 500 personnel has joined tens of thousands of residents in New South Wales (NSW) in their laborious clean-ups following the latest floods that hit the Australian state.

“Our emergency service personnel and volunteers are doing an outstanding job dealing with the flooding, but it is also vital we get boots on the ground to begin the recovery process,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

Perrottet said the team included personnel from the NSW State Emergency Service (SES), NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW), Environment Protection Agency (EPA), Public Works Advisory (PWA) and the Australian Defense Force (ADF), reports Xinhua news agency.

Minister for Flood Recovery, Emergency Services and Resilience Steph Cooke said while the emergency response continued in some parts of NSW, other communities, such in the western and southern areas of the Greater Sydney Region, were beginning the mopping-up process after suffering their fourth flood within 18 months.

“The first step of the clean-up involves SES personnel undertaking rapid damage assessments of flood-affected homes and businesses so properties can be deemed safe,” Cooke said.

“Our teams will also assist with clearing bulk debris, washing out homes and businesses, and making sure roads are accessible so it’s safe for people to return.”

Meanwhile, this week’s flooding has reopened a long-running debate about raising the height of the retaining wall of Warragamba Dam, which provides more than 80 per cent of Sydney’s water supply.

The dam began overflowing early on Sunday after the region received more than a month’s worth of rain in just five days.

The mayors from two councils impacted by the dam spillage said its wall must be raised “as a matter of urgency”.

Hawkesbury City Council Mayor Patrick Conolly said the flooded residents were living in a “never-ending nightmare”.

“Our residents understand that living along the Hawkesbury River poses a risk, but to endure four floods months apart is extremely stressful and heartbreaking,” Conolly said.

Conolly noted that the NSW government released a report in 2017 which recommended raising the dam wall by 14 metres as the “best option to reduce the risks to life, property and community assets posed by floodwaters”.

He was joined in the quest by mayor of the Hills Shire Peter Gangemi who said reacting to floods wasn’t enough, adding that “every meter that the flood levels go higher, the amount of homes and businesses that get flooded as well as the cost of recovery go up exponentially”.

“Raising the dam wall 14 meters could reduce flood levels by up to 3.5 metres in the Hawkesbury River,” Gangemi said.

The heightened wall proposal, however, has been criticized by some environmentalists who have argued it could pose environmental risks to the neighbouring World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park.

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