NSW floods: Thousands told to evacuate as ADF deployed to help
Thousands of people in NSW have been told to evacuate or prepare to leave their homes as heavy rain continues to feed widespread flooding across Greater Sydney, including the Hawkesbury-Nepean and in the Illawarra.
It comes as Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watts said Australian Defence Force troops had been deployed to help with the crisis.
The Weather Bureau said more heavy rains on Monday could lead to flash flooding in the Illawarra, Blue Mountains, Sydney Metropolitan and parts of Hunter and Central Coast districts.
The State Emergency Service responded to more early 400 requests for help overnight and performed about 20 flood rescues, with that number expected to increase as people are asked to avoid driving if possible.
Almost 70 evacuation orders are in place mostly in the Hawkesbury-Nepean area and another 66 communities are on standby to leave.
Thousands have already left their homes as the Hawkesbury, Nepean and Colo rivers flood.
With several roads closed by floodwaters, landslips and fallen trees the Transport Management Centre is urging drivers and public transport passengers to “avoid non-essential travel in parts of NSW impacted by severe weather”.
Transport for NSW warned of delays and gaps in services across the network because of the chaotic weather.
SES spokesman Ashley Sullivan echoed the plea to stay off the roads.
“I understand it’s school holidays but really have a look at your travel plans,“ he told ABC TV on Monday.
“If you don’t need to leave home, please, you know, bunker down at home if it’s safe to do so.
“We’ve already seen the rivers rise much quicker than what they would normally rise, because of the levels of saturation in the ground.
“Things are happening quicker, rivers are rising quicker, evacuation orders and warnings are happening quicker and more frequent than what we did expect.”
Strong winds are prompting concerns trees will be blown down due to the already saturated ground.
“It won’t take a strong wind at all to start blowing them over,” he said.
North Richmond is once again cut off by floodwaters, with river levels exceeding that reached in March (15.92m), with further rises possible on Monday morning.
There is moderate flooding at Windsor and the bridge is closed, with the waters expected to rise further.
The SES is asking people to promptly heed evacuation orders and refrain from driving into flood waters.
Mr Sullivan said people were being rescued from cars that had driven into floodwaters and from homes when people had stayed too long.
Numerous evacuation centres have been set up across western Sydney.
A combination of heavy rainfall and rapid dam spillages is causing rivers to rise at an alarming rate, shattering previous records.
But the rain across the Sydney Metropolitan and Illawarra districts could start to ease during the afternoon and evening.
Six-hourly rainfall totals between 60mm to 100mm are possible.
Winds have gradually eased overnight after gale force warnings were issued on Sunday.
Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke acknowledged people were flood weary but urged them not to be complacent and evacuate when required.
“We want people to put their own safety and their loved ones as their top priority ... second to that is the lives and safety of our emergency services personnel and volunteers,” she told Sydney radio 2GB.
The SES was joined by 100 Australian Defence Force members on Sunday to help with sandbagging and doorknocking communities to warn of flood threats focusing on the Hawkesbury-Nepean area.
A man died while kayaking in Sydney Harbour near Canada Bay on Sunday but police are still investigating and have not linked the incident to the weather.
Meanwhile, Senator Watts said Greater Sydney should brace for what could be the worst flooding in the past 18 months.
He said the Federal Government had committed more defence force support following a request overnight from the NSW Government.
Two ADF night time helicopters and 200 troops have been deployed to assist during the emergency.
“Over the last couple of years there’s been some instances where sometimes decisions were a bit slow and people paid the price of that,” Senator Watt told ABC radio on Monday morning.
“This time we’ve made a really conscious effort to make sure that resources are on the ground ahead of time so they can be used very quickly when they’re really needed.”
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