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Thousands were evacuated in Australia’s worst flooding in nearly half a century

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Sydney (Reuters) – Australian authorities issued new flood warnings and evacuation orders on Tuesday as torrential rains again pumped parts of the country, destroying homes, roads and livestock in the worst rainfall in more than half a century.

The National Weather Agency has posted severe weather warnings in every state or continental territory, but one, affecting about 10 million people in the country of 25 million, across an area the size of Alaska.

The rain and flood situation remains dynamic and extremely complex, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters.

No deaths were reported, but thousands have been rescued by emergency services in recent days. About 18,000 people have been evacuated by authorities waiting for another 15,000 to join them.

Images shared on social media showed entire bridges washed, animals trapped and houses submerged in New South Wales, the most populous and most affected state.

One video showed a container truck crashing into a bridge, causing structural damage, while another showed a car veering off a road flooding floodwaters in neighboring Queensland.

Other photos captured massive flocks of spiders and snakes as the creatures sought to escape the rapidly moving flood waters.

In NSW, a fourth consecutive day of heavy rain was expected to combine with a coastal trough over the next 24 hours, increasing flooding.

Weather conditions have deteriorated and those weather conditions are likely to worsen during the day, so many communities will experience heavy rainfall, said NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian.

The owner of a restaurant that was underwater on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, 62 km (38 miles) north of Sydney, told Australian Broadcasting Corp that he rescued a neighbor who needed medical care by boat.

My brother called and said please go over here, we need to get this baby out. We took them across the river and to a car, said restaurant owner Darren Osmotherly.

The Warragamba Dam, Sydney’s main water supply, started filling up on Saturday and was expected to continue to do so for another week. A year ago, amid drought and fires, the same dam fell under half the catchment, causing major water constraints.

Although the weather system is likely to start easing by late Wednesday, officials warned that affected residents may not be able to return to their homes immediately as incessant rains pour more water into river areas.

COAL DELIVERIES

Coal deliveries to the Port of Newcastle, north of Sydney, the world’s largest coal export port, were previously banned due to flooding of closed railways.

On Tuesday, the largest independent coal miner in the country, Whitehaven Coal Ltd, said it was forced to stop loading ships at port due to structural errors, while port weather-related restrictions were slowing ship movements.

The company said flooding of roads could hamper labor movements and lower the forecast for coal sales to a range of 18.5 million to 19 million tonnes, from a range of 19 million to 20 million previously.

Reporting by Jonathan Barrett and Renju Jose and Byron Kaye in Sydney; Edited by Richard Chang and Jane Wardell

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