Canberra: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday announced his intention to declare floods in the country’s north-east as a national emergency.
Morrison visited communities affected by catastrophic flooding in northern state of New South Wales where he made the announcement, Xinhua news agency reported.
The declaration will give the federal government greater power to deploy the Australian Defence Force and financial support to affected areas.
It is the first time a national emergency is declared after the power was legislated in the wake of the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfire crisis.
“I have made this decision on Wednesday, in consultation with the premiers,” he said in a statement.
“It will ensure our Ministers and agencies don’t face any unnecessary bureaucracy as they roll out what communities need,” he added in a statement.
“The feedback we’ve had from communities, state governments and my own Ministers who have visited the impacted areas has helped us identify where the gaps are right now, and how we can get support out the door quickly to where it’s needed.”
At least 20 people have died and thousands of buildings have been destroyed or damaged in flooding that began in late February after the north-east coast received a year’s rainfall in one week.
The Australian Prime Minister announced 25 million Australian dollars ($18.2 million) in funding for emergency relief, food relief and counseling services for victims and 31.2 million Australian dollar ($22.7 million) for longer-term mental health services.
“We can’t underestimate the long-term mental health toll so many communities will be facing. As well as the new mental health supports we’re announcing, my government will closely monitor the situation to understand what else people need as they recover from these disasters,” Morrison said.