Sydney — Australia’s most populated city — has recorded more rain between Friday and Monday than cities like London or Melbourne do in a year, causing dams to overflow and bringing on the fourth flood emergency for the region in less than 18 months.

The rainfall cements 2022 as the wettest start to a year on record for the city.

About 50,000 people across the state of New South Wales, mainly in Sydney’s West, have now received evacuation orders and warnings, with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet confirming a disaster zone had been declared across 23 local government areas. 

"It’s hard to put into words what some communities across NSW are going through, again,” Perrottet wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “We have mobilised significant resources and all relevant agencies to get help to those in need. And we will pull together, as we always do, to get through this.”

A one-off disaster payment of AU$1,000 per adult has been made available for residents within the affected zones.

Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said further assistance would come once the floods had finally receded.

“While we are still very much in the emergency response phase of this developing weather event, as waters recede, we will work with communities to assess longer-term recovery needs and ensure appropriate long-term support is provided,” she said in a joint government and state emergency servicestatement.

The recent rainfall is thought to be a catalyst for rising food prices, with economists and climate change experts pointing to the interconnectedness of natural disasters, human-induced global warming and the availability of fresh food.

Price increases are now expected to accompany leafy greens, fruits and vegetables.

Rising food prices as a result of global fuel and fertiliser cost increases have been impacting Australia for months, with low-income families and individuals living in remote regions the most affected. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences say food prices have increased 65% in the past two years. 

The number of people relying on Foodbank, the nation’s largest food relief charity, is up 50% from pre-COVID-19 levels. 

While the role climate change has played in the Sydney flooding is still being debated among scientists, the link between the severity and likelihood of natural disasters and climate change has long been established.

Climate experts Adam Morton and Graham Readfearn explained in the Guardian that, without a doubt, continuous flooding in the region over recent months meant the ground was already saturated and unable to absorb more water. Like the rest of the world, the water and air around Australia are heating, with the waters off the state’s coast recording a temperature two degrees hotter than average for this time of year.

“Warmer oceans tend to fuel heavier storms,” Morton and Readfeam confirmed.


Defend the Planet

Sydney’s Record-Breaking Rainfall Forces Thousands to Evacuate, Impacts Food Prices

By Madeleine Keck