More than 30,000 people are under evacuation orders as communities in Sydney’s west, north-west and south-west brace for more deluges and a worsening flood crisis on Monday.
In the flood-hit areas from Newcastle as far south as the Illawarra, some areas have already had hundreds of millimetres of rain, with more heavy falls expected on Monday, the weather bureau’s Jane Golding said.
“It is dangerous out on the rivers and we do have some more rain
to fall, which means the flash flood risk is not over yet either,” she said.
“Although the rain rate should start to decrease through the Sydney-Illawarra area later today or overnight and probably on the central coast, Hunter by Wednesday, we are expecting continued rain along NSW coast for the remainder of the week.
“That means that the catchments are not drying out and so any follow-up systems that we get over the next couple of weeks … the flood risk does remain.”
The federal government has committed more defence force support following a second request from the NSW government, sending two ADF night-time helicopters and 200 troops to assist during the crisis.
“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,” Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt told ABC radio on Monday.
“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.”
Senator Watt also warned the latest flood event could be the worst in the past 18 months.
“The latest information we have is that there’s a very good chance that the flooding will be worse than any of the other three floods that those areas had in the last 18 months,” he said.
Areas stretching from Newcastle to the south coast and as far inland as Oberon are at risk from this week’s weather, but especially western Sydney’s flood-prone Hawkesbury-Nepean area.
Concerns were greatest on Monday for the area around Richmond and Windsor on the Hawkesbury River.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said there were 64 evacuation warnings and 71 evacuation orders across NSW on Monday, affecting 30,000 people. That number was likely to increase throughout the week, he said.
“It has been a very difficult time for many months to have this flood event off the back of others. It makes it more challenging and once again, our SES are on the frontline day in, day out,” he said.
“If there is an evacuation warning in place, please get ready to evacuate. If there is an evacuation order in place, please leave immediately.”
There are also concerns for a bulk carrier that has lost power off the NSW coast. It has 21 crew on board, and was only about a kilometre off the coast on Monday morning.
“It is obviously a very precarious position and our thoughts are with those on board,” Mr Perrottet said.
The vessel has since been anchored and tugboats are on the way to assist. Plans to airlift the crew from the ship were delayed by the rough weather.
The wet weather system that has wrought havoc across parts of Sydney is expected to move south along the Hunter, central and Sydney coasts in the next 24 hours.
The bureau has issued flood warnings for the Hawkesbury, Nepean and Colo rivers, where levels in some parts of these catchments have already exceeded levels recorded earlier this year.
Camden in Sydney’s far south-west could expect a lashing, Ms Golding said.
“It’ll be at its worst tonight,” she said.
The bureau warned river levels could reach those of March this year when swathes of Sydney’s south-west and outer west were inundated.
Warragamba Dam in Sydney’s west began overflowing at 2am, well ahead of predictions.
The dam was spilling at a rate of 500 gigalitres (a day), NSW Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke tweeted on Sunday night – higher than during the floods earlier this year that inundated large swathes of the state.
“To give some context, this rate is greater than the March 2021 flooding period, March and April 2022,” she said on Sunday night.
Elsewhere, a man has 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.
Evacuation centres are open in western Sydney at Canley Vale’s Cabra-Vale Diggers Club, the Narellan community centre, Gymea Tradies Club, Richmond Club, North Richmond community centre and Castle Hill RSL.
The SES was joined by 100 Australian Defence Force members on Sunday, assisting with sandbagging and doorknocking communities to warn of flood threats focusing on the Hawkesbury-Nepean area.
Evacuation orders are in place in parts of:
- Agnes Banks, Angus, Gronos Point, Plough and Harrow Dam near Abbotsbury and Cecil Hills, Pleasure Point, Bents Basin, Wallacia, Camden, Woronora, Chipping Norton, Georges Hall, Lansvale, Moorebank, Warwick Farm, Leets Vale, Ebenezer, Pitt Town, Pitt Town Bottoms, North Richmond, Sackville, Cattai, Cornwallis, Richmond Lowlands, South Windsor, Bligh Park, Freemans Reach, Portland and Cumberland Reach
Evacuation warnings are in place in parts of:
- East Hills, Picnic Point, Penrith, Emu Plains, Mulgoa, Jamisontown, Cranebrook, Yarramundi, South Maroota, Windsor Downs, Windsor Central, Wilberforce, Pitt Town East, Riverstone, Marsden Park, Schofields, Freemans Reach, Londonderry and Clarendon
Moderate to major flooding possible along:
- Hawkesbury and Nepean Rivers, Colo River, Georges River and Shoalhaven River