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NSW floods: Record rain brings chaos to Hunter amid search for missing sailor

Thursday January 7, 2016 - 01:14 EDT
ABC licensed image
Flooding in Hexham Swamp Reserve behind properties in the Newcastle suburb of Fletcher - ABC licensed

Flooding in the New South Wales Hunter region has led to evacuations, rescues and hundreds of calls for help as the region experiences its wettest January day on record.


The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said the immediate threat of severe weather had passed, with conditions easing around the state.

But forecasters warned that more rain was still forecast for the Hunter region and floodwaters remained a major risk.

The rain also brought , while a search is underway for a man lost overboard off a yacht just north of Newcastle.

Newcastle roads were turned into rivers of fast-moving water as emergency crews dealt with about 2,000 requests for assistance, including 800 across the Hunter region.

Across the state, rescue crews carried out more than 28 flood rescues.





Dozens of residents in Raymond Terrace were ordered to evacuate, where the Hunter River broke its banks.

Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said 30 homes and 70 to 80 people were affected.

"Those individuals will be invited to use the evacuation centre at Raymond Terrace," he said.

"The commissioner of the SES and I will be making sure that all of the resources of the SES are available to the people of the Hunter Valley should the situation worsen.

"We'll have a better understanding of what damage has been done to local infrastructure over the course of the next day or two."

One resident, Tracy, was told by police she had 20 minutes to pack some things and leave her home.



"Clothes and medication - that's all I thought to grab - my charger for my phone and that's about it, that's all I could fit in my bag," she said.

Local publican Andrew Wedmaier was also forced to evacuate his pub.

"[They] told us all to get out and I've got about 150 booked in tonight," he said.

"Overkill today. They've evacuated us for some reason. April was worse than this."



On Tuesday night residents were evacuated from low-lying parts of the flood-ravaged town of Dungog, .

Several rivers reached their peak on Tuesday night and were falling, including the Gloucester River, the Myall River at Bulahdelah and the Williams River at Dungog.

The BoM said the rainfall had broken weather records.

"In Newcastle, Nobby's [weather] station recorded the wettest three-day rainfall total for January, and that's records going back to 1862," senior climatologist Agata Imielska said.

"They had 273.4 millimetres for the last three days.

"In fact, the wettest day was 200.6 millimetres and that was recorded over 24 hours to 9:00am to January 6 this year (today) ?? so that's the wettest January day on record there."


Wollombi Brook was also inundated, experiencing major flooding.

Search for man lost overboard from yacht

A search is underway for a man who disappeared into massive seas after falling overboard from a yacht off the coast of Port Stephens, just north of Newcastle.

He is believed to have fallen into the water near Broughton Island around midday.

"Conditions would probably be the worst conditions to search in," Graham Nickerson from the Hunter's rescue helicopter said.

"The seas are massive, visibility is very poor and a lot of white caps obviously.

"The people did have him located but unfortunately have lost sight of him. As I said, the conditions are not real good."



Dozens of roads cut, town isolated by floodwaters

Dozens of roads around the Newcastle and Hunter region are cut and motorists have been advised to avoid all unnecessary travel.

A New South Wales State Emergency Service spokesman said the small town of Torryburn was isolated by floodwaters.

"This is probably the second or third time we've been isolated since the April storms when we lost our bridge," said local resident Craig Gardiner.



Wes, a resident of the Newcastle suburb of Carrington, said he was surprised by just how much rain was falling.

"This is the worst it's been since I've been here in a couple of years," Wes said.

But the BoM said storm-affected areas could expect conditions to ease on Thursday.

"The forecast for [Thursday] is for a cloudy day, but a medium chance of showers," duty forecaster Andrew Haigh said.

"We will continue to have a lot of wind offshore as the low pressure system, that's causing all this weather, moves out to sea.

"We're looking at the same kind of forecast on Friday, in fact a better forecast on Friday.

"We'll still have those large and powerful surf conditions, so take care if you're going in the water."

SES regional controller Greg Murphy said conditions in the south of the state should also improve over the next few days.

"Around the mid south coast and up into the highlands we are looking at a couple of days of sunshine. So I think the end of the week is looking a whole lot better than the front end of the week," he said.

Campers trapped by floodwaters

The SES said a group of stranded campers on the New South Wales far south coast would remain isolated overnight.

Emergency authorities said the 21 campers, including five children, in the Deua National park, west of Moruya, were running out of food and water.

Several helicopter attempts to rescue the group have failed due to low cloud and high wind.

A flooded river has prevented crews from reaching them on the ground.

SES incident controller Ashley Sullivan said crews had managed to established radio contact with the group.

"They're fine, they're OK. They're running low on food of course, but our plan at this stage is to re-attend the site tomorrow," he said.

"Hopefully the floodwater's reduced a little bit and hopefully the cloud cover has lifted and we can actually get a helicopter in there."


- ABC

© ABC 2016

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