A baby having breathing problems on a NSW properly cut off by floodwaters has been rescued by two lifesavers who used an inflatable dinghy to reach the freezing infant.
Paramedics were called about 4.30pm on Wednesday about a baby boy who was struggling to breathe at a home in Bulga in the flooded Hunter region.
“Any callout involving an infant with breathing difficulties is very concerning, let alone in a flood zone,” NSW Ambulance inspector Jake Broughton Rose said.
A Rural Fire Service member trained as a community first responder by NSW Ambulance managed to reach the 10-month-old before handing him and his mother over to two members of Surf Life Saving NSW, Lee Archer and Shane Dowsett.
The pair used an inflatable dinghy that is normally used to pluck people from hazardous surf to ferry the baby and his mother to safety, battling flood currents to get them to paramedics waiting near the flooded Bulga bridge.
Mr Dowsett said it was probably the worst call he’d ever received.
“Especially when a baby’s involved, that’s a little bit distressing because you know as a parent what it would be like seeing your child not breathing,” he told ABC TV on Thursday.
Mr Archer shrugged off their role in the drama, saying the pair were just part of a chain of people involved in saving the baby’s life.
“Hopefully at the end of the day that chain works,” Mr Archer said.
The baby was assessed before being taken to Singleton Hospital in a stable condition.
“The community first responders did an outstanding job in assessing and transporting the patient and mother across flood waters to the waiting ambulance,” Mr Broughton-Rose said.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said the rescue, among 50 conducted across NSW overnight, brought home the extent of the flood emergency.
“What trumps all of that is that wonderful spirit of service that Australians have in putting their own lives on the line to help others,” he said on Thursday.
He thanked all the volunteers risking their lives amid the floods.
“You really make our state and our people proud,” Mr Perrottet said.
In another major rescue effort just hours earlier, police pulled a 72-year-old woman from a 4WD swept off a flooded rural road north of Kempsey on the mid-north coast.
She called for help after she was unable to get out of the car, which was wedged against a line of trees.
When a local sergeant made his way to the semi-submerged vehicle, he found the water was up to the trapped woman’s neck.
Five other officers helped the sergeant bring the woman to safety after managing to open the door.
Police drove her to Kempsey Hospital where she was treated for hypothermia and exhaustion.
Flood crisis runs into another day
Elsewhere, thousands of people were beginning to return home to flood zones in western Sydney on Thursday – with warnings about potential hazards.
Dozens of evacuation orders and warnings remain across NSW, but authorities have moving into recovery mode in some areas.
Concern shifted on Thursday to the Hunter and mid-north coast, after extensive flooding in parts of Sydney this week. The Bureau of Meteorology’s Diane Eadie said the region had copped a drenching, with up to 300 millimetres of rain in the 24 hours to midday Thursday.
“We’ve seen extraordinary rainfall totals. However, the most significant activity has now moved offshore,” she said.
She offered some hope of improved conditions as the clean-up got underway.
“We’re not going to see a return of those significant rainfall totals in the days ahead.”
Water was expected to begin receding at one of the hardest hit towns, Singleton, on Thursday. It peaked about 13.71 metres, higher than during floods back in March.
To the east at Maitland, risks remained, with major flooding expected and a peak of 10.5 metres forecast.
NSW Flood Recovery Minister Steph Cooke said close to 800 damage assessments had been conducted in western Sydney, with about 30,000 residents who had been ordered to evacuate given the all-clear to return.
“The flood emergency is winding down, the recovery efforts are winding up,” she said.
SES deputy commissioner Damien Johnston urged people to remain vigilant as they returned home, with flooded properties posing significant risks.
“You can have contaminated waters, contaminated waste, debris, and other risks such as electrical risks,” he said.
Applications for support payments of $1000 for eligible adults and $400 for children will open at 2pm on Thursday.
Floods are still having an impact on the other side of the Blue Mountains, with residents in Dubbo Regional Council issued an alert to boil town water before consuming it for at least a week due to poor conditions in the Macquarie River.