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HEAVY RAIN AND FLOODS HIT SOUTHEAST AUSTRALIA

Francesca Cavazzuti, Ashani Wijesuriya, PACOM

John Smith, Editor; Demetrios Giannakaris, Senior Editor

October 26, 2022



Meteorological Map of Australia[1]


Geographical Area | Southeast Australia

Countries Affected | Australia


Australia is enduring its third consecutive La Niña event, and thousands in New South Wales and Victoria had to evacuate due to heavy rains and floods.[2] The flooding will almost certainly hinder human security concerns within medical services, emergency personnel, and disaster management. Hospitals are likely to face an increase in the number of wounded and distressed patients, likely causing health facilities to be under-equipped and understaffed to manage the emergency effectively. The excessive rainfall will very likely damage Australia’s farmland in the Southeast, oversaturating the soil and decreasing the crop yield. More extended periods of flooding will very likely cause a prolonged decline in agricultural and industrial production.


Security Risk Level:

Areas of High Security Concern: The flooding will almost certainly threaten human security, occupying medical services, emergency personnel, and disaster management. The excessive rainfall will very likely damage Australia’s farmland in the Southeast, oversaturating the soil and decreasing its crop yield. The agricultural sector will likely confront supply shortages, placing some regions of the country at risk of food insecurity. The excessive rainfall will very likely render the open sea near Australia unnavigable for its coast guard and navy. The Maritime Border Command and Royal Australian Navy will be unlikely to maintain patrols in the nearby open sea, likely increasing human and drug trafficking risks.

Current Claims: Australia

Groups Involved in Conflict: New South Wales residents; Victoria residents; Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology; Prime Minister Anthony Albanese; Australia’s Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers; South Australia’s State Emergency Service (SES); Pacific Islands Forum; Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); UN

Current Conflicts: Australia is facing a string of successive La Niña events, and on October 22, thousands in New South Wales and Victoria had to evacuate due to heavy rains and floods. State authorities executed over 150 flood warnings, deploying 500 Australian Defence Force personnel in flood-affected areas. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, intense rainfall could lead to “dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding.”[3]

Major Capital Industries: Hospitals; Transportation

Potential Industry Concerns: Hospitals will likely face an increase in wounded and distressed patients. Flooding of roads and the few arterial regional routes will very likely obstruct the delivery of essential equipment and materials to hospitals, likely causing health facilities to be under-equipped and understaffed to manage the emergency effectively. Simultaneously, blocked roads will likely prevent emergency relief teams and hospital personnel from timely arriving to rescue victims and transporting them to health facilities, very likely cutting off communities from medical and material assistance. Insufficient medical resources and personnel will very likely reduce hospital treatment capacities of the underdeveloped regional health infrastructure already strained by the COVID-19 Pandemic, likely making it necessary to implement emergency camps near hospitals.


Areas of Caution:

  • Economic: The widespread flooding will impact Australia’s cost of living. Officials predict the price of fruits and vegetables to increase by more than 8% during the next six months. Over the past two years, Australia’s regular flooding has damaged some of the country’s farmland across New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. The government has stated that it is too early to estimate the exact economic cost of the floods. Australia’s Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers predicts the rainfall will remove at least 0.25% of the country’s gross domestic product in the fourth quarter.[4]

  • Emergency Management: As of October 22, there are 98 flood warnings for New South Wales and 68 flood warnings for Victoria. According to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, 150 Australian Defense Force personnel were deployed to New South Wales and 350 to Victoria joining thousands of State Emergency Services volunteers. The missions will include evacuations, resupply runs, and assisting residents in filling sandbags. The flooding has claimed five lives, prompting local authorities to issue evacuation alerts.[5] Victoria’s State Emergency Service was warned that as many as 34,000 homes could be inundated or isolated.[6] South Australia’s SES received more than its average yearly calls within five hours on October 24, with almost 100 people requesting assistance.[7]

  • Infrastructure: Heavy rain and floods have submerged portions of main roads and highways across New South Wales and Victoria States, causing delays in moving goods and transporting people around the country. The inaccessibility of highways has forced large and heavy vehicles to use local and regional roads, increasing local traffic and damaging low-capacity routes. Road blockages have also started to impact local shops and supermarkets, which have experienced late deliveries and low stocks.[8] In Victoria, floods have damaged more than 400 roads and forced 56 schools to close. Heavy rain also affected power supplies, causing more than 10,000 houses to be without power for a few days.[9]

Predictive Analysis:

  • Who: The flooding will almost certainly cause severe disruptions in the day-to-day activities of residents within New South Wales and Victoria, such as restricting their outdoor movement, causing deterioration to vehicles, and placing households at risk for power outages. The agricultural sector will very likely be vulnerable to significant damage, including crop loss, soil erosion, and the loss of farming equipment, grazing areas, and livestock. The time-sensitive and urgent nature of the responses to the weather event will likely strain medical/emergency services and first responders, resulting in staffing shortages and risking lives.

  • What: There is almost certainly a threat to human and environmental security. Flood waters will very likely spread infectious diseases, cause bodily harm to individuals, and create environmental hazards. There is an extreme danger to wildlife that are unable to adapt and respond to increasingly common flash flooding and hazardous weather events, placing endangered species at risk of extinction in the near future.

  • Why: The extreme weather event is almost certainly linked to the series of natural disasters in the Indo-Pacific region. The frequency of natural disasters is very likely connected to global patterns of rising sea levels and weather patterns. If the ongoing issues continue, Australia will likely experience more severe weather events, threatening its ability to recover from past natural disasters and causing long-term economic, environmental, and health consequences.

  • When: Heavy rain and flooding will likely result in prolonged transportation obstruction and reduced agricultural production. Despite there being a roughly even chance that heavy rain will decrease over the summer, environmental instabilities due to climate change will very likely result in La Niña becoming stronger for longer periods in the future. Extended flooding will very likely cause a prolonged decline in agricultural production. The scarcity of crops will likely lead to increased prices of cereals, cereals-based products, and cattle feed, very likely resulting in higher market prices of products such as bread and meat and reducing agricultural and livestock exports.

  • How: Due to climate change, La Niña will likely continue to hit southeastern Australia more intensively and for more extended periods. The increasing occurrence of other extreme weather events, such as droughts and wildfires, will very likely further jeopardize residents’ safety, power supplies, and national agricultural production. State and Federal levels of Australian governance will likely increase investments in disaster relief, emergency management, and infrastructure resilience while reducing investments in critical industry sectors for Australia’s economic growth, such as mining. There is a roughly even chance that prolonged extreme weather events will lead Australia to be more active in promoting environmental solutions within regional and international organizations, such as the Pacific Islands Forum, ASEAN, and the UN, to counter climate change.

The PACOM Team recommends that researchers continue to monitor the weather forecast and movements of La Niña in southeastern Australia. Agencies, Organizations, and Companies (AOCs) should report the social and economic impact that flooding has on the region’s residents and industries in terms of revenue loss, production halt, and scarcity of resources. State and central governments should provide emergency management and disaster relief funds to the targeted areas to support the residents and the reprisal of agricultural production. The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) works to detect, deter, and defeat terrorism and will continue to monitor this incident for future developments. CTG’s Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crimes, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) Officers will monitor Australia for hazards, such as extreme rains and flooding.

 

[1]A map of Australia, with English labels” by Thomas Steiner licensed under Wikimedia Commons

[2] Australia's east braces for more heavy rain, 'life-threatening' floods, Reuters, October 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/australias-east-braces-more-heavy-rain-life-threatening-floods-2022-10-22/

[3] Ibid

[4] Australia Food Prices Soar as Floods Damage Key Farming Areas, Voice of America, October 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/australia-food-prices-soar-as-floods-damage-key-farming-areas/6801050.html

[5] Australia's east braces for more heavy rain, 'life-threatening' floods, Reuters, October 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/australias-east-braces-more-heavy-rain-life-threatening-floods-2022-10-22/

[6] As Australia Expects More Rain, Flood Warnings Continue, Voice of America, October 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/as-australia-expects-more-rain-flood-warnings-continue-/6792899.html

[7] Calls for more SES volunteers after record-breaking rain in South Australia's Riverland, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, October 2022, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-10-24/call-ses-volunteers-south-australia-rain-riverland/101568446

[8] Flooded road closures creating freight movement delays between states, ABC, October 2022, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-10-19/nsw-floods-freight-transport-delays-sturt-highway-closures/101547504

[9] Australia: Flooding and evacuations ongoing across parts of eastern regions as of Oct. 20 /update 7, Crisis 24, October 2022, https://crisis24.garda.com/alerts/2022/10/australia-flooding-and-evacuations-ongoing-across-parts-of-eastern-regions-as-of-oct-20-update-7


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