Cars begin to sink underwater as heavy rain leads to widespread flooding in NSW. Photo / Coffs Coast Advocate
More rain is on the way for flood-ravaged areas of the NSW mid-north coast, with hundreds of evacuated residents hoping to return home but many others still cut off from help.
The heavy rain pushed the Bellinger River to a peak of 8.6 metres on Tuesday evening, stranding about 1,600 nearby residents.
Coffs Harbour has registered about 450mm of rain in the past 24 hours.
Bellingen recorded nearly 400mm of rain over the same period, while the Dorrigo area recorded 266mm and there was a top of 537mm at Girralong.
NSW Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan is on his way to the area to determine if disaster relief is necessary.
“I’m travelling to Coffs Harbour this morning just to see what the damage is and see whether or not a natural disaster declaration is needed for the area,’ Mr Whan told Macquarie Radio on Wednesday.
The State Emergency Service (SES) has responded to more than 760 requests for assistance and performed about 60 rescues of people trapped in flood waters.
The SES estimates some rural properties could remain cut off for the next four days.
“But again a lot of these areas are used to these flooding situations and are quite well prepared,’ spokesman David Webber said.
Coffs Creek peaked at 5.14m at 6:15pm (8.15pm NZT) on Tuesday, which is just below the 1996 level of 5.43m, when floods resulted in the death of one person.
About 100 Coffs Harbour residential properties and businesses have been affected, with 420 people evacuated from surrounding areas, including 300 school children and aged care residents.
The Bellinger River has begun to fall from its peak, which was equal to 1986 levels, but 1,600 residents in Bellingen, Darkwood, Thora and Kalang will remain isolated for up to four days.
Approximately 55 people were evacuated from Newry Island, with some taken out by flood boat.
The Nambucca River peaked at 10.25m, just 0.25m below the record level of June 1950, at 10.30pm on Tuesday.
Nearby Bowraville and surrounding farmland remains isolated.
Police say flooded areas in Coffs Harbour, Bellingen and Urunga are contracting, but more rain is forecast for Wednesday.
The Pacific Highway through Coffs Harbour has reopened in both directions but remains closed at Urunga to the south.
Residents have been able to leave evacuation centres established in flood-ravaged areas but the centres will remain open.
Parents have been allowed to pick up their children from The Bishop Druitt College and the Christian Community School at Coffs Harbour after they were cut off by the flood waters.
The SES has approximately 400 staff and volunteers working with the Rural Fire Service, NSW Fire Brigades and police.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has predicted more rain in areas of the mid-north coast on Thursday.