Hundreds of stranded residents have been rescued from their homes and cars in NSW, as a “life-threatening” downpour that has triggered record-breaking floods heads to Sydney.
Major flooding has hit several towns along the NSW mid-north coast, with the Hastings and Camden Haven rivers reaching record levels.
Those in low-lying properties around Taree, Dumaresq Island, Cundletown, Central Wingham and Wingham Peninsular were ordered to evacuate on Saturday morning.
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Evacuation orders were also issued in Kempsey, Port Macquarie, North Haven, Dunbogan, Camden Head and Laurieton on Friday.
The Hastings River peaked at 12.1m near Port Macquarie breaking an eight-year-old record, and major flooding at Laurieton exceeded a record set in 1978.
The State Emergency Service has responded to more than 3200 calls for help since the wet weather began, including 335 flood rescues overnight.
That is a “huge number”, NSW SES spokesman Andrew McCullough told AAP.
“A lot of those jobs are for people who are stuck in their houses, caravans, animals isolated by floodwater, people stuck in cars – it’s really for a wide mix of things,” he said.
Most of the calls are coming in from Taree, Wingham, Port Macquarie, Macksville, Settlement Point, Wauchope, Laurieton and North Haven.
“Every minute we get two or three more rescues coming through at the moment.”
“This is not a typical sort of flood, these are life-threatening floodwaters and (it’s) a very serious situation.”
Calls for help from the Hunter and Sydney regions are starting to roll in too, as the system moves south, Mr McCullough said.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning on Saturday morning covering an area from the mid-north coast to the far south coast of NSW as well as Canberra.
The bureau warned of intense rainfall, flash flooding, damaging winds with gusts exceeding 90km/h, dangerous surf and coastal erosion.
Rain has plagued the Sydney area for most of the week, but the deluge arriving on Saturday will be on another level, the BOM says.
“We might see quite significant flash flooding and we’ve got a flood watch current for both the Nepean and Hawkesbury rivers,” bureau flood operations manager Justin Robinson said.
“We’re likely to see a spill from Warragamba Dam and that will then impact those communities downstream.”
The Public Information and Inquiry Centre has been activated, allowing members of the public to contact 1800 227 228 for information about the severe weather and flooding at any time of day.
The deluge is set to continue well into next week and could deliver the heaviest rainfall since February 2020, when Greater Sydney was hit.
© AAP 2021