Floods in Australia: how are expats coping with it?

  • flooded Brisbane, Australia
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Published on 2022-03-14 at 10:00 by Ester Rodrigues
Expats living on the Southern Australia coast must be very scared. The New South Wales coast has been hit by dangerous weather with heavy rains and strong winds in the last week leading to severe floods on the Australian coast. The Bureau of Meteorology in Australia has expanded its warning zone for towns and communities, stretching Coffs Harbour south towards the Victorian border. The NSW State Emergency Service has warned of dangerous conditions and asked for evacuation at large parts of the coastline, including Sydney. 

Among fears are flooding and landslides, along with severe thunderstorms, hazardous surf, damaging wind and hail. Across the state, 43 evacuation orders remain in place, and 16 have already evacuated. Metro Sydney continues to face flood threats. Authorities are planning for “potential operational activity” from the East Coast low that forecasters are expecting to form as two were killed so far. Causes. The main cause of floods in Australia is heavy or long-lasting rainfall, which makes rivers exceed their capacity and overflow.


The immediate impacts of flooding include deaths, damage to property, destruction of crops, loss of livestock, and deterioration of health conditions due to waterborne diseases. With roads and bridges damaged and disrupted, some economic activities may come to a standstill, people are forced to leave their homes, and normal life is disrupted. According to the Queensland government, these floods impact both individuals and communities and have social, economic, and environmental consequences. Still, the government affirms that floods are the most expensive type of natural disaster in Australia, with direct costs estimated over the period 1967-2005 averaging at $377 million per year (calculated in 2008 Australian dollars). 

Damage to public infrastructure affects a far greater proportion of expats whose homes are directly inundated by the flood or whose jobs are interrupted. In particular, flood damage to roads, rail networks and key transport hubs, such as shipping ports, don't allow them to go to work. Besides, these floods have an impact on tourism infrastructure and on the time needed to return to full operating capacity afterwards. In this way, they are affecting those expatriates who work in the tourism sector. 

Mark Isaacs, the President of Sydney PEN International and the author of Nauru Burning, wrote an article stating that no food or water was provided for days from authorities, all local donations. Paola Totaro, a British journalist and ex-President of the Foreign Press Association in London, criticized Australia's policies and compared its lack of assistance during the floods with its strict pandemic rules. “Watching this from afar, I'm left speechless that a wealthy nation like Australia leaves its own citizens to flounder, without logistic rescue, food, shelter in a national flooding disaster. But then again, Australia stranded its expat citizens in global pandemic so…”, she shared on Twitter. On the other hand, Sikh Volunteers Australia, a non-profit organization mostly run by expats from the Middle East has been helping people in areas impacted by the flood with free food. With their van, groups of volunteers have been serving freshly cooked vegetarian meals in several regions, like Melbourne, Queensland, Lismore, Evans Head and others. 

Expats reaction

With floods, bushfires and strict coronavirus lockdowns, Australia has been passing hard times – and it's left some expats scared. Earlier this month, Ayomide Moon, a British expat, who moved to Bondi Beach in Sydney's east in 2019, shared his feelings on TikTok to lament about his wild time in Australia. “Am I the only one from the UK who's thinking to themselves, ‘What (...) did I get myself into by moving to Australia in these last two years?''' Since Moon arrived in December 2019, Australia has experienced bushfires, the coronavirus pandemic and most recently devastating floods. “I swear everyone was like: ‘Come to Australia, it's amazing, the land of paradise, so much opportunity here.'” 

He shared on social media his frustration and fear, as he left his country with great expectations. “I've never felt so small, so insignificant, so scared for my life against the natures … save me, he said”. NSW is now beginning the clean-up after unprecedented floods impacted everywhere from the north of the state down to the south coast. In his TikTok, Aussies and British expats empathized with Mr Moon's video, and one commented: “I swear everything was sweet before the end of 2019”.