Australia: Expert warns of »funnel web spider boom« in Sydney

After the heavy rains and floods in southeast Australia, an expert warns of a poisonous spider plague in the metropolis of Sydney. “The upcoming warm weather and high humidity are perfect conditions for a funnel-web spider boom in the coming days,” said the head of the Australian Reptile Park, Tim Faulkner.

The floods in the region around Sydney had driven the animals from their traditional habitats and sought refuge in drier areas. “Unfortunately, this could mean that they could find their way into apartments and houses very soon,” said Faulkner. In the past few days, images of thousands of spiders had already spread on the Internet, crawling up close to fences and buildings while fleeing the water.

Sydney funnel-web spiders are among the most venomous spiders in the world and are at home in the region around the metropolis. To date, 13 deaths from funnel-web spider bites have been recorded. There have been no known deaths since an antidote was developed in the early 1980s.

The Australian Reptile Park, north of Sydney, which produces the antidote, called for increased attention and advised that shoes and bed linen should be checked for the animals. Faulkner also encouraged “responsible adults” to catch funnel-web spiders and deliver them to collection points.

The floods meanwhile claimed their first death. A man in the north-west of Sydney was surprised by the floods in his car and was found dead in the vehicle, the police said. The Prime Minister of the state of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, said in parliament that it was “simply a miracle” that there had been no deaths given the catastrophic situation.

Days of heavy rain had led to the evacuation of entire villages in the past few days. Houses, streets and fields sank in the floods, and many Australians have lost all their possessions.

24,000 people brought to safety

Despite the improvement in the weather and blue skies in parts of the region, the authorities have not yet given the all-clear. “We’re not over the mountain yet,” Berejiklian said to journalists. The water levels of many rivers continued to rise, and evacuation orders were still possible for large areas, which could affect many thousands of people. Such a flood “we have not seen for 50 years and in some parts for 100 years,” said the politician.

The AAP news agency reported that around 24,000 people have been brought to safety since the weekend. According to the meteorological authority, the water level in some communities had not yet reached its peak. While the clean-up began in some areas, “life will not be normal for many people for a long time,” said Berejiklian.

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