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Sydney gets one month’s rain in one night, thousands told to evacuate as roads turn into rivers

Cars are being inundated by rising flood waters.(Pic: Twitter)

Thousands of people have been asked to evacuate Sydney as the city received nearly a month's rain in a single night that turned suburban roads into rivers on Thursday. Torrential rains continue to batter Australia's east coast as part of the freak weather phenomenon, according to local media reports.

Residents of a nursing home were evacuated overnight as emergency crews urged Sydney’s 5 million residents to avoid unnecessary travel and brace for possible evacuations.

Television news channels showed vehicles struggling to cross waterlogged streets, fallen power lines and trees, and debris floating in rivers.

"This is a highly dynamic situation. These events are moving exceptionally quickly," New South Wales emergency services Acting Commissioner Daniel Austin said during a media briefing. "Exceptionally sharp, short bursts of rain" have been creating flash flooding almost every hour, he said.

Sydney has received 1,227 mm (48 inches) of rain so far this year, more than its average annual rainfall of 1,213 mm. Over the next 24 hours, many coastal towns could get up to 180 mm (7 inches), the Bureau of Meteorology said.

The tourist hot spot of Bondi recorded around 170 mm over the 24-hour period to 9 a.m. Thursday, official data showed.

According to a Reuters report, thousands have been ordered to evacuate their homes while businesses cleared essentials to help mitigate their losses.

Overflow from a fuel pit at a site owned by oil refiner Ampol in Sydney's south caused oil to mix with flood waters but emergency crews said the spill has been contained and that there was no risk of danger in the area.

Australia's east coast summer has been dominated by the La Nina weather phenomenon, typically associated with increased rainfall, for the second straight year, with most rivers at capacity even before the latest drenching. Warragamba Dam, Sydney's major water supply, is expected to spill over on Friday, a Reuters report cited officials as saying.

Climate change is also widely believed to be a contributing factor to the severe weather, which has raised questions about how prepared Australia is.

According to local media group 9News, the Nepean River in Sydney’s west  is forecast to reach levels similar to the devastating floods in April 1988, the weather bureau has warned, as the city endures more record-breaking rainfall.

A flood warning is in place for Menangle, Camden and Wallacia, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Evacuation orders have been issued for parts of Woronora and Bonnet Bay in the Sutherland Shire, as well as Chipping Norton in south-west, the 9News report added.

People who remain in the area past 11.30am have been told it's likely they will be cut off, with the Woronora Bridge likely to be submerged at 1.7 metres.

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