Australia floods: 18,000 evacuated across NSW; 38 areas declared disaster zones as rain continues

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has revealed the devastating human cost of the flood crisis on Australia’s east coast, saying many feel they are at “breaking point” as more than 18,000 people are forced to flee their homes.

The premier said this afternoon around 15,000 people have been evacuated from their homes on NSW’s mid north coast and around 3000 in the Richmond Valley region.

More than 150 schools are closed across the state.

Berejiklian said 38 areas are now “disaster zones”.

“Nineteen orders have been issued and potentially there are more to come,” she said.

“We ask everybody who are in those flood areas to please be cautious and listen to the orders, please be ready if you have been asked to be on alert, be sure you are packed and ready to go in case you need to be evacuated at short notice.”

She some residents in the evacuation zones have been “battered” by floods after suffering through bushfires last year.

“I just want to say to everybody across the state who is currently living in fear and anxiety that all of us are thinking of you,” she said.

“Some communities battered by the bushfires are now being battered by the floods and deep drought prior to that and I don’t know any time in a state history where we have had these extreme weather conditions in such quick succession in the middle of a pandemic.

“They are challenging times for New South Wales but we have also demonstrated our capacity to be resilient and I know for many people, they will feel like it is a breaking point.

“Please know that we are thinking of you and getting support as much as we can.”

The worst flooding in decades hit Australia’s most populous state late last week after heavy rain fell across the region.

This morning, NSW Emergency Services Minister, David Elliott, said there had been 1500 call-outs in the previous 24 hours – bringing the total in the past few days to almost 10,000.

The mid north coast, in the northeast of the state, was experiencing a one-in-a-100-year event, and “whilst we don’t think things will worsen on the mid north coast, definitely conditions will continue, so the rainfall will continue across the parts that have already been affected”, Berejiklian said.

The premier also said yesterday that parts of Western Sydney were being hit by a one-in-50-year weather event, with some locations recorded more than 300 millimetres of rain since Friday morning, breaking records.

Sydney commuters were today advised to work from home as roads were closed and public transport services disrupted by flooding.

The Warragamba dam, west of Sydney, started overflowing on Saturday, threatening communities along the Nepean River. Water NSW, which operates the dam, said yesterday that more than 500 gigalitres of water was being released daily.

Earlier today, Elliott said the state was requesting support from the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

He told Sky News specialist personnel were expected to arrive within 24 hours.

While the State Emergency Services (SES) was the “primary agency” fighting the floods, Elliott said the ADF would be used to assist with amphibious vehicles and other assets available only to the federal agency.

Elliott emphasised the ADF would be more heavily depended on in assisting with the clean-up once the floods end.

Head of Resilience NSW Shane Fitzsimmons said today the “extraordinary wet-weather event” would continue for days to come.

“We have still got days of this extraordinary event to roll out and communities will be threatened and compromised for a while yet,” he told 2GB.

As rain began to fall again across large parts of NSW this morning, he said people must heed the warning of the SES and other authorities.

“Right now, those warnings are not just about inundation but the potential for isolation and the inability to be able to get out in the coming hours, based on the forecast and the movement of these water patterns,” Fitzsimmons said.

– With AP

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