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Natural disaster declared in Australia after worst flooding 'since 1960s'
21 March 2021, 10:03 | Updated: 21 March 2021, 15:25
Natural disaster declarations have issued across large parts of New South Wales, as Australia's most populous state sees torrential rainfall causing a "one-in-a-100-year" flood.
The state has seen heavy rainfall since Thursday, with flooding compounded by the overflowing of Sydney's main water source, the Warragamba dam, on Sunday.
Evacuation orders have already been issued and more are expected to follow, with the bad weather forecast to last into the middle of the week.
#NSWRFS crews are assisting #NSWSES in a number of ways from clearing blocked drains to removing fallen trees and even flood rescue operations, as was undertaken yesterday in the Taree area. Stay safe and up to date by following @BOM_NSW and @NSWSES. (Video: Kathryn Elizabeth). pic.twitter.com/EFo3aokDXA— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) March 21, 2021
NSW State Emergency Services say they responded to over 7,000 calls for help since the downpour began on Thursday, including 750 flood rescues.
Hundreds of people have been rescued from the waters, including the use of helicopters to save those trapped on the roof of their home.
#NSWRFS aviation crew continue to assist @NSWSES where required. This video was taken by one of our Air Observers on approach to Taree. For emergency assistance with flood and storm damage call the #NSWSES on 132 500. If it's a life-threatening emergency, call Triple Zero (000). pic.twitter.com/lKu4YlV6To— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) March 21, 2021
Residents have been told to avoid the roads for their own safety and to allow emergency services to access those in need.
There have not been any reported fatalities so far, however, NSW emergency services minister David Elliott warned: “Motorists in this state need to know we are statistically moving closer and closer to the inevitable fatality.
"We cannot say it enough, do not put yourself in danger, do not endanger the agencies that are there to assist you and event of a flood rescue."
Mr Elliot also told a press conference that 16 natural disaster declarations had been signed by the NSW and Australian federal government, releasing financial assistance for affected areas.
NSW premiere Gladys Berejiklian added: “It is not just the dam, it is the rivers which are overflowing, it is sustained rainfall.”
The state's mid north coast is experiencing a one-in-a-100-year event, Ms Berejiklian said.
⚠️ Severe Weather Warning ⚠️ for HEAVY RAINFALL and DAMAGING WINDS has been updated. Keep up to date with the latest forecasts and warnings over the coming days: https://t.co/HaDgXSP0Jb pic.twitter.com/3GzH223j85— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) March 20, 2021
Some areas have seen over 80 centimetres of rain since Thursday, with the rivers rising rapidly and engulfing some bridges.
The Nepean River at Penrith was expected to rise as high as 10 metres by Sunday evening, with other rivers not peaking until Monday.
Robert Scott, director of infastructure at MidCoast Council told ABC: "We have absolutely water saturated ground at the moment, with some areas more like the consistency of yoghurt.
"So it is really dangerous conditions if people are out and about."