Emergency volunteers forced to perform 'unacceptable' number of flood rescues in NSW

The NSW State Emergency Service received 300 requests for assistance, including 12 flood rescues, in the latest 24-hour period.

A supplied screengrab shows the flooded Hunter River in Muswellbrook, in the Upper Hunter Region of NSW, Saturday 27 November 2021.

An evacuation order has been issued to residents of towns along the Hunter River in NSW as rising floodwaters threaten power and water services. Source: NEW SOUTH WALES STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE

Emergency services volunteers have been forced to perform an 'unacceptable' number of flood rescues across New South Wales as rising waters drive residents from their homes in the Upper Hunter.

Dams and rivers are overflowing across the state after a month of heavy rainfall.

State Emergency Services volunteers were called upon to rescue 12 people from floodwaters overnight, with 120 rescues performed since the heavy rain set in.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said that number was too high.

Driving through flood waters "puts the lives of those flood rescue teams at unnecessary risk, it is also putting your own life at risk", Emergency Services Minister David Elliott added.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott speaks to the media during a press conference at the Bass Hill Operations Centre in Sydney, Sunday, November 28, 2021. The Premier provide an update on COVID quarantine arrangements in NSW, was briefed on the states flood
David Elliott (centre) and Dominic Perrottet (left). Source: AAP

The SES received 300 requests for assistance in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, Commissioner Carlene York said.

Ms York said the weather had been a "significant event" across the state.

"All our dams are full and some are on white alert, which means they're going up to capacity," she said.

"The rivers are full and the ground is quite saturated."

In the central west, the Namoi and Lachlan rivers have posed the biggest risk.

On the Namoi, Gunnedah is experiencing major flooding as levels peak. There's also major flooding at Narrabri and Wee Waa, which will be cut off for about a week.

The Lachlan River's main flood peak is approaching Forbes, where levels are set to peak on Monday afternoon. Jemalong is also seeing major flooding.

A caravan park at Wagga has had to be cleared as well, with residents moved to higher ground. 

In the Upper Hunter, residents around Singleton were ordered to evacuate on Saturday evening.

While the rain has eased, another front is threatening to bring further downpours later this week.

Ms York said some of the flood rescues were people driving into floodwaters, but others were people who'd become isolated between floodwaters.

"If you're in an area of high risk of flooding, please just do essential travel and don't go out unless you really have to," she said.

Areas of major concern include along the Namoi River at Gunnedah, in the state's northeast, and the Castlereagh River around Coonamble in the central west.

The Bureau of Meteorology said some areas of the state were hit with more than 100mm of rain on Friday.

On Saturday evening, there were major flood warnings for the Lachlan at Jemalong and the Namoi at Narrabri and Wee Waa, where it's feared residents could be cut off for more than a week.

Sydney's Warragamba Dam began spilling shortly after 9pm on Friday.

The Warragamba Dam spillway is seen outflowing in Warragamba, in south west Sydney, on 27 November 2021.
Sydney's Warragamba Dam spillway outflow could peak as the flood crisis continues across NSW. Source: AAP

WaterNSW said the outflow volume could peak at a rate of about 60-80 gigalitres per day, just a fraction of levels in March that peaked at 500 gigalitres per day.

"On current projections the spill could continue for up to a week," WaterNSW said in a statement on Saturday, adding "downstream impacts are likely".

Premier Dominic Perrottet on Saturday urged residents to follow safety advice and avoid driving through flooding,

The number of flood rescues performed by SES volunteers was "way too high", he said.

"Those rescues take place in the main because people aren't following the instructions, they're driving through floodwaters. Don't do that. Follow the advice, that's the best way to stay safe."

3 min read
Published 28 November 2021 at 8:04am
Source: AAP, SBS