Tens of thousands of Sydney residents were being told to evacuate their homes after strong storms and flash floods swamped much of Australia’s biggest city on Tuesday.

Cities were cut off and farms, cattle, and roads washed away, and minor to major flooding occurred off the Queensland – Victoria border – a stretch of roughly 1.000 miles.

Since the start of the flood Nineteen people have been killed, most of them in houses that had been flooded or in cars that attempted to cross flooded roads.

Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Dean Narramore warned of ‘a tough 24 hours or even 48 hours ahead’, with five-11in (5cm) of rain expected in Sydney over the following day.

The national weather agency warned of a “tough 48 hours ahead” for Sydney, where emergency services said 60.000 people were under evacuation orders and warnings in affected areas.

As much as 200mm of rain has fallen in some suburbs since Monday morning, prompting short-lived evacuation orders across Sydney’s south-west and north-east.

Emergency services estimate that about 70.000-80.000 people in Greater Sydney could be affected by evacuation orders but don’t expect everyone to comply.

“People make decisions based on past history and I think this event has shown that there is no past history similar to this event,” Carlene York, disaster mitigation commissioner for New South Wales, told reporters.

New South Wales

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New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. (wikipedia)

University of New South Wales

The University of New South Wales , also known as UNSW Sydney, is a public research university based in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It is one of the founding members of Group of Eight, (wikipedia)