Australia considers forming a national disaster response team amid severe flooding

Australia is contemplating establishing a permanent national disaster response team to deal with the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, such as the recent floods that have devastated parts of the southeast.

Since late February, Australia’s east coast has experienced three major weather systems that have brought record-breaking rainfall and flooding to South East Queensland, the Wide Bay–Burnett and parts of coastal New South Wales (NSW). Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, suffered its worst flooding since 1974, with more than 31 inches (792.8 millimeters) of rain falling in three days. More than 20,000 homes and businesses were inundated, and at least 23 people lost their lives.

The floods also forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes, some for the second time in a matter of weeks, as heavy rains triggered flash floods and landslides in late March and early April. The first three months of 2022 brought a year’s worth of rain to Sydney, Australia’s largest city.

Australia considers forming a national disaster response team amid severe flooding
Australia considers forming a national disaster response team amid severe flooding

Climate change increases the risk of extreme weather events

Experts say that climate change is fueling an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events across Australia, such as bushfires, floods and droughts. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia has warmed by about 1.4°C since 1910, and this trend is expected to continue. Warmer temperatures lead to more evaporation, which in turn creates more moisture in the atmosphere and more intense rainfall3.

The current floods have been linked to the La Niña phenomenon, which is a natural cycle of the Pacific Ocean that affects the weather patterns around the world. La Niña typically brings cooler and wetter conditions to eastern Australia, but scientists say that climate change is amplifying its effects.

Government explores the possibility of a national disaster force

In response to the unprecedented scale and impact of the floods, the Australian government declared a national emergency for the first time since the power was created following the wildfires in 2020. This allowed the federal government to speed up the delivery of aid and resources to the affected areas, and to coordinate the efforts of the state and local authorities.

However, some experts and officials have argued that the current disaster management system is inadequate and fragmented, and that there is a need for a more proactive and unified approach. They have proposed the creation of a permanent national disaster response team, which would consist of trained and equipped personnel from various agencies, such as the military, the police, the fire service and the health sector. The team would be ready to deploy at short notice to any part of the country that faces a natural disaster, and would provide assistance in rescue, relief and recovery operations.

The idea of a national disaster force has been supported by some state leaders, such as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who said that it would help to streamline the communication and coordination between different levels of government. However, others have expressed concerns about the cost and feasibility of such a proposal, and the potential impact on the existing roles and responsibilities of the state and local authorities.

The federal government has not yet made a decision on whether to pursue the idea of a national disaster force, but it has indicated that it is open to exploring all options to improve the country’s resilience and preparedness for future disasters.

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