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Australia to declare east coast floods a national emergency

Australian PM Scott Morrison says he will declare a national emergency over flooding in two states.

The disaster in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland has killed 20 people and inundated thousands of homes in the past two weeks, after record rains.

Federal and state governments have faced anger for not acting faster to help residents.

Mr Morrison’s declaration – a national first – will allow federal authorities to intervene more directly.

He made the announcement on Wednesday in the town of Lismore, saying it had endured a “once in a 500-year event”. Four people died in flooding there last week.

“What has been seen here is nothing more than heart-breaking. You have to see it, you have to smell it, you have to feel it,”

In some communities, rescue efforts have largely relied on volunteers rather than authorities, and many people have been forced to live in temporary accommodation or cars.

While waters have receded in some areas, there are still major flood alerts for places north of Sydney. The city experienced widespread flash-flooding on Tuesday.

To become official, the national emergency needs to be signed off by state premiers and the country’s governor-general, which Mr Morrison said should happen by Friday.

Editing by Omotola Oguneye