Thousands of residents in northern New South Wales are bunkered down in evacuation centres, as the worst floods in over 35 years hit the region.
Across the state, more than 12,000 people were isolated by rising floodwaters as heavy rains fell, sparking 13 flood warnings. Evacuation operations continued in and around Moree last night, with about 2300 residents rushing to sandbag their homes and leave.
Helicopters descended on nearby Pallamallawa to airlift some of its 600 flood-stricken residents to safety, with the Gwydir River peaking there at 8pm. NSW SES deputy commissioner of operations Steven Pearce said the Pallamallawa operation was challenging. "But we are very confident we will get everyone to safety."
At Moree, both the Mehi and Gwydir rivers were predicted to peak this morning, matching or exceeding the 10.6m levels reached in a February 1976 flood. "We're looking at water up to the knees [in some areas]," Mayor Katrina Humphries said, urging affected residents to leave their homes.
About 1600 Moree residents and 80 people from Biniguy were expected to evacuate to south Moree evacuation centres by last night when the main bridge at Moree was to closed and the town split in two.
NSW Police and Emergency Services minister Mike Gallacher extended natural disaster declarations to the Moree, Narrabri, Gwydir, Tenterfield and Greater Taree local government areas.
The SES estimates about 12,150 people will be isolated across the state. These include the 2300 at Moree, 2300 on the mid-north coast, 2500 around Bellingen and 4650 around Harrington at the Manning River, the SES said. Essential supplies, including blood from Mungindi Hospital just across the border in Queensland, were brought into Moree, while food and supply drops were expected to take place in isolated regions.
Thirteen flood warnings remained in place for river systems across NSW, with rain expected to spread to the Hunter region, the Illawarra and metropolitan Sydney.
In Queensland, one southwest town is flooding and another eight are on flood alert, with more heavy rain predicted. A disaster situation has been declared at Mitchell.