Weather Deaths feared in northern NSW amid flood chaos, SES warns

Deaths feared in northern NSW amid flood chaos, SES warns

Lismore has been smashed by a massive amount of rainfall, causing its flood barrier to be breached. Photo: AAP
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UPDATE 9am – The State Emergency Service (SES) fears lives may have been lost due to flooding in northern New South Wales overnight.

SES acting deputy commissioner Mark Morrow said 130 calls for help had been made overnight, however not all of those who called could be reached.

“We expect this morning that as we start to go out and try to find people that made those calls overnight, there could be some very distressing news,” Morrow said. “There could be people overnight that perished in that flood – we don’t know at this stage.

“We’ll get out there as soon as we can in daylight with aerial assets as well – helicopters – and we’ll try and find those people that made calls to us last night and help them this morning.”

Residents in northern New South Wales were earlier urged to evacuate ahead of “unprecedented” flooding in the region as ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie continues down the east coast.

Lismore’s flood levy was breached overnight with warning sirens blaring in the middle of the night. 10,000 people have evacuated from the area after the Tweed River rose dramatically.

Up to 740 millimetres of rain fell in some parts of the Tweed River Valley.

Meantime the Logan River at Beaudesert, about one hour south of Brisbane, is peaking at the same level as the 1991 record.

The NSW SES ordered residents in parts of the regional city of Lismore, as well as the town of Kyogle, to leave their homes immediately late on Thursday after the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) advised that overnight rain would push Wilsons River to 11 metres by Friday morning.

“Do not delay your evacuation. Roads will be congested or closed. You could become trapped and need rescue,” an SES warning said referring to the flooding as “unprecedented”.

At least 45 flood rescues have already taken place around the Lismore area as of Thursday evening.

“The Wilsons River is our biggest concern, that’s risen so quickly we’ve gone straight to an evacuation order for about 6000 residents [at Lismore],” SES Acting Deputy Commissioner Mark Morrow said.

“It’s very dangerous conditions out there over the next 24 hours.”

A major flood warning has also been issued for Tweed River at Murwillumbah, which received up to 417mm of rain in the past 24 hours to 5pm on Thursday.

Further rainfall is forecast for the next 24 to 48 hours which could produce even further river level rises.

More than 25,000 people in Lismore were asked to leave their homes as floodwaters threatened a number of northern NSW towns, including Murwillumbah, Codong and Tumbulgum.

A building goes under at Murwillumbah. Photo: Chad Westbury 

There is also an emergency evacuation order for residents of Chinderah, Tweed Heads South, Kingscliff, Fingal Head and Bilambil.

The BoM forecast destructive winds, heavy rainfall, abnormally high tides and damaging surf on Friday.

River levels in Lismore are predicted to be higher than previous Wilsons River floods in 2001 and 2005, with fears it could eclipse the damaging floods of 1954. Many main streets in the city were under water on Thursday night.

More on the way for Queensland

Heavy rain and flash flooding has already wreaked havoc across Queensland, with parts of Brisbane, and the Gold and Sunshine coasts receiving a month’s worth of rain in the past 24 hours.

More that 2000 Queensland schools will remain closed on Friday due to the torrential rain.

The BoM advised that 412mm of rain had fallen in Upper Springbrook and Numinbah rivers on the Southern Border Ranges in the 24 hours to Thursday evening.

Over the same period in Brisbane, 221mm fell at Inala and Carroll Park, 212mm at Toowong, and 187mm at Mitchelton.

Forecasters are predicting up to 400mm to have fallen on the Brisbane CBD by Friday morning.

Cyclone Debbie NSW
Flood waters enter in the parking lot outside the Robina Hospital on the Gold Coast. Photo: Getty

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urged people to stay at home, indoors and off the roads.

“Please stay indoors, I need to have the roads clear for our emergency services personnel if they do need to go to the assistance of people,” Ms Palaszczuk said on Thursday.

More than 3600 calls for help were made to the Queensland State Emergency Service on Thursday, and more than 50 swift-water rescues in south-east Queensland.

Storms knocked out power to nearly 80,000 properties around south-east Queensland, with 30,000 of them on the Sunshine Coast.

Shark shock

A WIN News television journalist, meanwhile, made an unusual find while reporting on the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie in north Queensland.

Philip Calder said he was shocked at finding the “heavy” 1.5m-long bull shark left on a country road by receding flood waters while reporting in Ayr.

-with agencies

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