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Australia’s Worst Floods in Decades Quicken Concerns About Climate Change

Australia’s Worst Floods in Decades Quicken Concerns About Climate Change

In a country that suffered the harshest wildfires in its recorded history just a year ago, the deluge has become another awful milestone.

WINDSOR, Australia — Kelly Miller stood in her doorway on Monday, watching the water rise to within a few inches of the century-old home where she runs an alternative medicine business. The bridge nearby had already gone under in some of Australia’s worst flooding in decades, along with an abandoned car in the parking lot.

“It’s coming up really quickly,” she said.

Two massive storms have converged over eastern Australia, dumping more than three feet of rain in just five days. In a country that suffered the worst wildfires in its recorded history just a year ago, the deluge has become another record-breaker — a once-in-50-years event, or possibly 100, depending on the rain that’s expected to continue through Tuesday night.

Nearly 20,000 Australians have been forced to evacuate, and more than 150 schools have been closed. The storms have swept away the home of a couple on their wedding day, prompted at least 500 rescues and drowned roads from Sydney up into the state of Queensland 500 miles north.

Shane Fitzsimmons, the resilience commissioner for New South Wales — a new state position formed after last year’s fires — described the event as another compounding disaster. Last year, huge fires combined into history-making infernos that scorched an area larger than many European countries. This year, thunderstorms have fused and hovered, delivering enough water to push rivers like the Hawkesbury to their highest levels since the 1960s.

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