East coast flooding confronts need for disaster preparedness

As the east coast floods Australia in the face of a third consecutive La Niña, eastern states are bearing the brunt of characteristic wet conditions with heavy rains and widespread flooding in northern Tasmania, central and northern Victoria and southern New South Wales.

The extreme weather destroyed hundreds of properties and also saw rescues and evacuations along the Maribyrnong River in Melbourne’s west.

Thousands of people are also under evacuation orders for flooding in New South Wales and Tasmania.

Although much of the east coast has seen the brunt of these La Niña events over the past three years, Dr Margaret Cook of the University of the Sunshine Coast says Victoria and Tasmania have faced relatively little flooding so far.

“These heavy rains are unusual,” she said.

“Dense bands of cloud moved across the desert, carrying moisture evaporating from the seas to northwest Australia. Rain fell across much of the continent over the past two weeks. Our rain events are generally regional and not nationals.

According to Dr. Agus Santoso of the UNSW Center for Climate Change Research.

“A negative IOD tends to see higher than normal rainfall over southeastern Australia, such as Victoria,” he says.

“Weather systems generating extreme rainfall, which can occur at any time, can lead to flooding, especially given already wet conditions and saturated watersheds.”

While Dr. Santoso expects those conditions to weaken this summer, many experts worry about the lives and homes already destroyed and at risk, especially as many affected are underinsured or not guaranteed at all.

Secondary impact of flooding on the east coast

According to Professor Paula Jarzabkowski of the University of Queensland, “Australia [is] one of the countries most exposed to secondary disasters due to climate change, such as floods and bushfires [and] is also one of the most underinsured comparable economies.

Indeed, as climate change increases the likelihood of such cascading weather events, Australians are also likely to see similar cascades in rising insurance costs and falling property values.

“Many Australians are uninsured or underinsured against floods because every time there is a flood their premiums go up. From a certain level it becomes unaffordable so they take the risk of going without insurance. It’s not a risk they can afford as individuals,” says Professor Jarzabkowski.

“Every time an uninsured property is flooded, society has to pay to help those people out. At the same time, the wealth and viability of these owners to contribute economically to society is reduced. »

This spiral could lead to around one in 25 Australian homes being uninsurable by 2030. Because of this, experts are pushing for new housing standards for Australian homes to be future-proof and make them more resilient to climate change.

Until then, Dr Santoso urges Australians to keep an eye out for alerts and forecasts.

“The La Niña event is currently expected to weaken in the summer. A negative IOD generally does not last beyond the spring. SAM is in a positive phase and is expected to continue in the coming weeks. SAM is not very predictable beyond weeks,” he says.

“Stay informed of the weather forecast, be vigilant and stay safe.”

You can read the full reaction from the AusSMC expert here.