Houses on the brink of collapse as wild seas batter Australia's east coast

SYDNEY (REUTERS) – Some beachfront homes on Australia’s east coast have started slipping into the sea after wild storms lashed the coastline, residents said.

Residents of Wamberal, about 90 km north of Sydney, were evacuated after emergency personnel warned their homes might collapse as waves as high as 11 metres sped up erosion, local media reported. The suburb has a population of about 6,300.

Two properties partially collapsed after heavy erosion at Wamberal and a third suffered significant damage, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported on Saturday (July 18). Other property owners have lost land right up to the edge of their houses.

The Bureau of Meteorology said a hazardous surf warning remains in place for much of the New South Wales coast on Saturday with the risk of more damage to beaches.

“We’re all so anxious and frightened and vulnerable, and quite frankly angry that we’ve come to this situation, which we knew was going to happen because the revetment wall wasn’t built,” said Wamberal resident Margaret Brice.

Revetment walls are permanent structures to prevent erosion of land that are placed on banks or cliffs. Plans to build one at Wamberal have been the subject of community debate for a decade, ABC reported.

The ABC quoted the Central Coast Council’s director of environment planning, Scott Cox, as saying the community was frustrated but “I can’t authorise people to do work without approval. If residents with sound engineering advice need to do work to save their own home, council won’t be taking any action against them.”

The issue has affected the town since a 1974 storm when houses along the foreshore collapsed into the ocean, the ABC said.

Brice said she was “devastated that we’ve now lost our pristine beach”.

“If those properties are lost, the dunes are going to be breached and the rest of Wamberal is at threat,” she added.

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