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NSW Emergencies Minister Stephanie Cooke said flash floods and riverine flooding had been seen across the Northern Rivers and Mid North Coast.
“Unfortunately, our worst fears have been realised,” she said.
There are 10 evacuation orders and eight evacuation warnings in place across the Northern Rivers and Mid North Coast, but Ms Cooke warned that number could quickly change.
East Bellingen, low lying areas of Urunga CBD and Bellinger Keys and Lismore CBD, Lismore Basin and low lying areas of East Lismore and Girards Hill were put on notice this morning.
Ms Cooke said multiple powerlines had been brought down, and urged people to refrain from travelling outside unless they “really need to”.
About 3500-3600 households are currently without power, and Ms Cooke said efforts would be made to repair that after weather conditions eased.
Locals feel left behind as ‘disaster’ worsens
Residents in Byron have labelled the situation a “disaster”, saying those evacuated to dry areas in the early hours of this morning have now been inundated.
Others said they have been forced to rely on social media for updates in the fast-moving situation as information from the Bureau of Meteorology and State Emergency Service (SES) had been lagging.
Local Labor MP Justine Elliott has called for evacuation centres to be set up “urgently” in Ballina.
Lismore levee overflows as residents urged to flee
A major flood warning is in effect in Lismore. Residents are facing their second flooding crisis in weeks, with waters breaching the town’s levee.
“We have seen the levee in and around Lismore start to overtop, and that will lead to additional flooding, compounded by the flash flooding environment that we saw overnight,” NSW SES Acting Commissioner Daniel Austin said.
“That water will move its way down through the Wilsons and Richmond river systems, through communities as it works its way to the coast.
“We have already issued a number of warnings for communities downstream of Lismore to start to prepare and put in their plans as this water makes its way towards them.”
Ms Elliott has also warned residents in the town that emergency sirens are malfunctioning.
“Sirens will not sound there is a malfunction. You must get out now.”
Police are currently cleaning up a landslide on Bangalow road near Byron Bay.
It’s the second time in two days the flood-weary community of Lismore has been ordered to move.
Speaking to Today this morning, Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg said it’s almost certain the CBD will be flooded again and was moments from evacuating himself.
“Everything’s falling apart in Lismore at the moment,” he told Today.
“I’m about to jump in my car and do the bolt (evacuate) myself because it’s less than a metre before the levee breaks.
“We’re estimating in the next half an hour to an hour that (water) will come over the levee and the Lismore CBD will be inundated again — second time in a month.”
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) forecast the Wilsons River to hit 10.6 metres at 8am this morning and it’s now understood to have reached 11.6 metres.
“Further rises are possible in the afternoon,” BoM said.
During the flood crisis last month, the river reached 14.4 metres. .
Low-pressure system heads south
A severe storm warning for intense rain is in place for the Northern Rivers and parts of the Mid North Coast and Northern Tablelands.
“Areas that may be affected includes Lismore, Casino, Alstonville, EvansHead, Yamba and Maclean,” BoM said.
Over the next few hours, the following towns could also cop heavy rain: Coffs Harbour, Woolgoolga, Sawtell, Urunga and Glenreagh.
Weatherzone said damaging winds are also possible.
“This will cause more heavy rain, thunderstorms and potentially damaging winds in some areas. Evans Head clocked a wind gust of 100 km/h at 6:20am,” the weather service said.
Since 9am yesterday, Lismore has received 219.4 mm of rain, Mullumbimby has seen 138.2 mm, Billinudgel 138.2 mm and Ballina copped around 239 mm, with around 100mm said to fall in an hour.