Devastating floods hit south-west and north-east New South Wales (NSW) this week, the fourth major flood for these areas this year. There have been two confirmed deaths, with one man missing since Monday, and large-scale damage to homes and businesses. Hundreds of stranded residents were rescued by helicopters and boats.
The worst affected towns are Forbes, Borenore, Canobolas, Molong, Canowindra, Walli, Tuena and Eugowra in the Mid West region of NSW. Emergency services described it as the “largest flooding operation in its history”. A thousand people have been evacuated from Forbes, whose population is experiencing the second flood evacuation in two weeks. There are 112 flood warnings still outstanding in the state.
In Eugowra, where 90% of homes and businesses were affected by flooding, Diane Smith, 60, a town newsagent, was swept away by floodwaters and tragically lost her life. Shortly before, rescue workers had rescued her from her flooded house on Monday morning. She was dropped off at a bridge deemed safe at the time. But as the floodwaters rose, she attempted to make it safely to the nearby show ground and was swept off the road, where she was last seen clinging to a tree.
The body of a young man was also found in the floodwaters. He has not yet been identified. An 85-year-old man, Ljubisa ‘Les’ Vugec, is still missing, last seen at his home in Evelyn Street, Eugowra on Monday morning.
In Molong, Molong Creek swelled to 4.7 meters at Wellington Bridge, carrying two shipping containers, along with cars, onto the main street. The waters toppled the wall of the local supermarket and destroyed many local businesses.
At Forbes, the Lachlan River appears to have peaked at 10.68 meters, just below the record high of 10.8 meters recorded in 1952. Major flooding occurs at Condobolin, Nanami, Euabalong, Warren, Hay, Barham, Boundary Bend, Bourke, Brewarrina, Hillston, Jemalong, Mungindi, Walgett and Wee Waa.
New South Wales Liberal-National Premier Dominic Perrottet said he was confronted by angry residents of Eugowra, demanding to know why emergency response numbers went unanswered at the height of the flood and why there was a lack of food, water and assistance in the flood-ravaged town. 700.
The floods followed record rainfall, more than has been seen in some areas since 1875. Australia is experiencing its third consecutive La Niña year, which has seen swathes of the country flooded time and time again.
The monthly statement from the Bureau of Meteorology said: “Rainfall was the highest on record for October for large parts of the Murray-Darling Basin in New South Wales and Victoria”, and noted that the national total of precipitation was two and a half times the average level.
The flooding was partly caused by spills and discharges of 230,000 megalitres of water a day from nearby Wyangala Dam, equivalent to half the volume of Sydney Harbour. Locals reported that this caused a wall of water to flood in towns such as Eugowra. Such outings had never happened before.
The response from governments, however, remains the same as that experienced during the 2019-2020 bushfires and floods earlier this year. Residents must fend for themselves and rescue themselves and their neighbors.
The dire state of the State Emergency Services (SES) in the country’s largest and most populous state is such that the state government has issued calls for rescuers from New Zealand, Singapore and the United States to help with operations. Eighteen members of the Singapore Civil Defense Force landed at Sydney Airport today, to join 12 New Zealand flood rescue teams.
As a direct result of government policy, both state and federal, virtually all flood, fire and disaster services are run by volunteers, many of whom are themselves affected by the same crises as they attend.
Around 280 members of the Australian Defense Force are also involved. The government has exploited the lack of adequate civilian disaster services as a pretext to involve the military, as part of its efforts to condition the population on its widespread use in national disasters and its subsequent use to quell social unrest and policies.
Many residents of Eugowra town and beyond are uninsured against flooding. The mostly residential eastern part of the city is designated a flood plain, with insurance premiums between $30,000 and $40,000 per year. Many lost their homes and all their belongings as their homes were lifted and washed away by the floodwaters.
Following an outcry from large sections of residents and ordinary people following the NSW Northern Rivers flood disaster earlier this year, the Liberal-National Government last month announced an $800million voluntary buy-back scheme which will would be jointly funded by the Federal Labor Government and the State Government.
The scheme, which is woefully insufficient to deal with the devastation inflicted on the people of northern New South Wales, will buy back 2,000 homes and provide funding for damaged homes. There are, however, 4,500 homes deemed habitable and 14,000 homes that were inundated during floods this year and last. Other flooded areas of NSW have been excluded from the scheme, including the flood-ravaged mid-west.
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said: ‘Particularly at this time when the catchments are full, the rivers are full, the ground is wet… it doesn’t take much rain for that a flash flood occurs. So we can’t protect ourselves against that on every occasion. What we can do is focus on projects in these areas that reduce flooding and reduce the risk to people’s lives.
Similar to its response to COVID-19, the government’s attitude is that workers must learn to “live with the floods” and assume their individual responsibilities.
As the World Socialist Website reported in March this year, the floods further demonstrated “the indifference of governments – Coalition and Labor – to the health, lives and livelihoods of ordinary working people”.
At that time, people whose homes were damaged or destroyed were offered a meager $1,000 per adult and $400 per child in one-time disaster payments, plus possible 13-week income replacement payments. Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Perrottet announced grants of up to $75,000 for primary producers and up to $50,000 for small businesses at the same time.
For decades, Liberal-National and Labor governments have zoned flood-prone areas for housing development. In doing so, they doomed hundreds of thousands of people from the poorest sections of the population, who move to regional areas to escape incredibly high metropolitan real estate prices, the prospect of floods and floods. from their homes. When such devastating and deadly events occur, these same governments leave residents to fend for themselves.
Weather forecasters predict that this is a prospect that will continue and grow through La Niña and global warming, itself the result of degrading the planet in the interests of profit and production.
The frequency of extreme weather events such as floods and fires in Australia and other countries is already increasing due to climate change. As the planet warms, the atmosphere is able to store much more moisture in extreme scenarios. With more humidity in the air, it means more showers.
The priority of the Australian government is not the lives of ordinary people, but the defense of their own imperialist interests. While a pittance is being spent on flood preparedness and support, funding has been increased for the military, in preparation for a US-led war against China.
The ongoing flood crisis has once again exposed the brutal indifference of the ruling class and its representatives to working class life. It also demonstrates the burning need to reorganize society along socialist lines. Rational and democratic planning is necessary to protect the working class and meet social needs. It is incompatible with capitalism.