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Residents still stranded in NSW floods

Tuesday March 31, 2009 - 23:49 EDT
ABC image
The flooded Coffs Harbour CBD on March 31, 2009. - ABC
ABC image
Water rushes down a culvert on Slingsbys Road, Dorrigo, as creeks swell from heavy rainfall, March 31, 2009. - ABC

A severe weather warning has been issued for parts of New South Wales as residents remain stranded by floodwaters in Coffs Harbour and on the mid north coast.

The flooding, which has isolated thousands of people, is being described as a once-in-a-century event.

Residents in Sydney, the Northern Rivers, mid north coast and Hunter regions are being warned of flash flooding, damaging surf and some damaging winds.

The Bureau of Meteorology says a low-pressure trough off the northern NSW coast is moving slowly south and is forecast to develop further.

A separate flood watch has also been issued for NSW coastal rivers from the Queensland border to the Hunter, with flood warnings current for the Bellinger, Hastings, Williams, Nambucca, and Orara rivers and Coffs Creek at Coffs Harbour.

The State Emergency Services has advised hundreds of people stranded in homes, businesses and schools to stay where they are.

Heavy rainfall in the last three days soaked Coffs Harbour, but this afternoon extreme weather conditions took a turn for the worse, flooding the town centre and cutting of roads and bridges in the area including the Pacific Highway.

Phil Campbell from the SES says some areas are likely to be cut off for several days.

"Certainly in Coffs Harbour as the rain eases we are expecting, given the flash flood environment there, that the waters will go down pretty quickly," he said.

"Over in the Bellingen River though we're expecting that the town of Bellingen will be isolated for a number of days, two to three days most likely."

Heavy rainfall has left Dorrigo, Bellingen and Coffs Harbour Hospitals isolated by the flood waters.

Students and teachers were also stranded at several schools that have been cut off.

Mr Campbell says residents should stay indoors.

"It's just too dangerous during these flash flood events to be leaving your property," he said.

The weather bureau says the Bellinger River at Bellingen has peaked at 8.6 metres and is now falling, however moderate to heavy rain is forecast for the next 12 to 24 hours which may cause renewed river rises.

Motorists are advised to avoid the areas.

For NSW and ACT residents needing emergency help in floods and storms, ring the SES on: 132 500.

- ABC

© ABC 2009

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