Some 5000 NSW residents driven from their homes by torrential flooding and as yet unable to return have been warned to brace for the psychological impact of returning to scenes of loss, devastation and ruin.
That number is significantly down on Saturday, when some 37,000 people remained under evacuation orders as NSW’s State Emergency Service worked to ease its emergency notices.
“There’s obviously ramifications with that. It’s not just a free-for-all, run back in there,” Adam Jones from the SES told AAP.
“There will be debris, their homes won’t have been checked, so if it has been inundated, there could be structural issues.
“The electrics might need to be looked at by an electrician. There could be mud and sewage everywhere.
Flood-affected residents returning to properties should wear PPE, boots, gloves and have sanitiser handy, said Mr Jones, who urged returning residents to mentally prepare to see their homes significantly damaged.
“Everyone’s going to be a bit stressed under these circumstances,” he said.
In the 24 hours to 12.30pm Sunday, the State Emergency Service had responded to 317 calls for help and performed 15 flood rescues.
That brings the rescue total to 482 since the floods began on June 27.
“A lot of our jobs at the moment have been animal rescues, medical assistance and resupplying the communities that are currently isolated,” an SES spokeswoman said.
As rain returned in areas across the state, including Sydney, authorities warned of several road closures and public transport disruptions due to flooding,
Relief payments expanded
The federal government expanded the number of areas able to access relief payments on Saturday evening, adding six more flood-affected councils to the list.
Payments of $1000 per eligible adult and $400 per eligible child are available to people impacted by the flooding.
Recovery efforts in the state will be overseen by former detective Dean Betts and fellow Resilience NSW director Mel Gore, Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke said on Saturday.
“These appointments will help to ensure flood-affected communities receive support in a timely and efficient way,” Ms Cooke said.
Flooding continued in the Hunter and lower Hawkesbury regions on Saturday, with more than 1000 government personnel on standby to assist.
Some 37 Victorian emergency personnel also travelled to NSW to help with the rescue and clean-up, taking the total number of crew from the state to 94.
Of 2285 premises already examined, 239 have been deemed not habitable and a further 973 require repairs.
How to donate
In the Hunter, lower Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains regions, roads remain cut in multiple towns and train services are affected.
The T1 Western, Blue Mountains and Hunter train lines are not operating between some stations, and the Parramatta River ferries are offering replacement transport between some stops.
Ms Cooke said the immediate priorities were damage assessments and making sure displaced residents could access emergency accommodation.
On Sunday, Ms Cooke said the GIVIT donation hub would allow the NSW government to better direct donated money for flood victims.
“By donating through the official channels people can know their generosity is going directly to those who’ve been hit hardest by the flooding,” she said.