SYDNEY (AFP) – Scores of protesters in a flood-wrecked city in eastern Australia vented their fury yesterday as Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited the heart of the disaster zone.
Demonstrators demanded more help and stronger climate action as Morrison toured Lismore, which endured some of the worst flooding in a near two-week deluge along the east coast that has killed at least 21 people.
“We need help!” protesters chanted as Morrison visited the city. Many held placards with messages blaming the climate crisis including: “Coal and gas did this” and “This is what climate change looks like”.
After the second major floods in a year, chunks of rubble and discarded, water-damaged furniture were piled high along the city’s streets.
Many people had to clamber onto their corrugated metal roofs to escape the fast-rising water last week as floods peaked in the city in northern New South Wales.
Some waited for hours to be rescued by locally improvised boat patrols, emergency services vessels or army helicopters as the waters surged around them.
Floodwaters across much of the east coast retreated as rainfall eased yesterday, but flood warnings were still in force in some areas including at the Hawkesbury River west of Sydney. Evacuation orders affecting about 40,000 people in New South Wales were in force in the morning. More than 90,000 people had been allowed to return to their homes.
The death toll from the east coast deluge rose to 21 as police discovered the body of a 50-year-old delivery truck driver in floodwaters in Sydney’s west.
Facing pointed questions at a news conference in the city, Morrison defended his government’s climate record by stressing its commitment to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“We are dealing with a different climate to the one we were dealing with before. I think that’s just an obvious fact,” Morrison said. “And Australia is getting hard to live in because of these disasters.”
Morrison, who faces an election by the end of May, has underscored his support for coal-fired power stations.