Thousands of people have been evacuated on the NSW Mid-North Coast and western Sydney, as swollen rivers flood towns and torrential rain continues to lash much of the state’s east coast.
There are 40 flood warnings and 20 evacuation orders in place running from the Mid-North Coast down to the Illawarra, including western Sydney, with more expected to be declared on Monday.
People in Kempsey’s CBD were told by the State Emergency Service to evacuate by midnight with major flooding possible along the Macleay River at Kempsey and Smithtown on Monday.
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The SES is warning the deluge will continue and more evacuations are likely.
Federal Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud says the situation ‘”could get a lot worse”.
The catchment areas are already saturated and rain in those already deluged areas are at risk of flash flooding.
Evacuation orders are now in place for low lying areas of Kempsey, Macksville, Port Macquarie, the lower Macleay, Wauchope and Rawdon Island, Taree and Wingham.
People are being asked to move possessions up high, take pets, essential items, warm clothes, medicines, insurance documents and valuables with them and stay with family or friends, or head to evacuation centres.
There is a major flood warning in place for the Hastings River at Port Macquarie.
SES Superintendent Shane Cribb said Port Macquarie had been hit with more than 800mm of rain and his volunteers had been working 24-hour shifts.
“I have never seen rainfall like this. I have worked in a number of floods and this is the biggest one I have worked in in my career,” he told ABC TV.
Some towns had been isolated for days, some without fresh water or power.
Some people had been living in evacuation centres for up to three days and the SES was looking for alternative accommodation for 400 people.
Numerous roads were cut off and thousands of homes in the area were flooded.
Kempsey has copped one of the highest rainfalls, recording 173mm between 9am Sunday and 4am on Monday, and it’s not letting up.
Heavy rain is likely to lead to flash flooding and will remain a serious risk for the Northern Rivers and Mid-North Coast on Monday and Tuesday, The Bureau of Meteorology warned.
The Hunter and Central Tablelands districts remain at risk.
Overnight, emergency workers conducted 150 more flood rescues and responded to 2000 calls for help, taking the total so far for the weekend so far to more than 10,000.
The most critical area is the Mid-North Coast where communities were facing the worst flooding conditions since 1929.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while NSW had not yet made a formal request, he expected the ADF would be deployed to help with the recovery.
“These are very, very serious storms and floods,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.
More than 200 schools are closed across the state.
There’s been major flooding near Newcastle and communities along the Hawkesbury River are also bracing for once-in-a-generation flooding that could displace thousands of residents and disrupt utilities for months.
The BOM expects the worst flooding in the area northwest of Sydney since November 1961.
Floodwaters are expected to inundate places such as Windsor, Pitt Town, North Richmond, Freemans Reach and Colo.
Already 2800 residents had been evacuated and Mr Littleproud said that had the potential to escalate to 54,000 if BOM predictions eventuate.
“We’re hoping we don’t have to get to that but that’s the potential scale of this disaster,” he told ABC Radio national.
Residents “need to understand this is a very very serious situation, a dangerous situation that they are in. Unless they understand and prepare for that they are putting their lives and their family’s lives at risk,” he said.
The Hawkesbury is predicted to reach peaks of up to 15 metres and the SES says homes and properties will be flooded.
“Extensive outages of water, electricity, sewerage, telecommunications and gas are expected to last many weeks or months,” the SES said.
Flooding along the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers comes after the Warragamba Dam spilled over.
Parts of Penrith and other areas along the Nepean were ordered to evacuate on Sunday.
© AAP 2021