A man has died in flood waters in New South Wales, as dozens of evacuation orders remain in place for parts of south-west Sydney in anticipation of the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers reaching major flood levels on Friday.
A police operation is underway to retrieve the man’s body after he was found in a submerged vehicle at Cobbity, south-west of Sydney, shortly before 8am Friday.
Water levels at the Upper Nepean River at Wallacia were tipped to exceed last month’s flood peak, while the Hawkesbury at North Richmond was expected to reach 10.5 metres by 10am, and as high as 11.8 metres at noon – just below the level seen in the devastating floods in February 2020.
More than 150 schools across New South Wales have been closed, and residents have been ordered to evacuate houses and caravan parks.
It follows a day of torrential rain across Sydney, parts of the south and central coasts, the Illawarra and Hunter regions and southern and central tablelands.
Mona Vale on Sydney’s northern beaches received 74mm of rain in the 24 hours to 8am and nearby Cromer recorded 70mm.
With rain falling on already saturated catchments, Warragamba Dam again spilled.
The State Emergency Service conducted 38 flood rescues in the past 24 hours, and received 1,299 calls for assistance.
There are currently 23 evacuation orders across NSW affecting 2,400 people, and a further 16 evacuation warnings affecting 1,700 people.
“It’s really important that people in areas that are currently under evacuation orders and warnings are following the advice of emergency services,” SES spokesperson Adam Jones said.
He warned that the danger had not faded for other parts of Sydney, with heavy rainfall and sodden ground combining to create a risk of flash flooding. “If it’s not essential to go out, just stay at home,” Jones said.
A further 25mm to 50mm was expected to fall in coastal areas on Friday, with rain forecast from Lismore to the Victorian border.
The Bureau of Meteorology said major flooding was likely along the Hawkesbury and Upper Nepean rivers, with moderate flooding in the Upper Colo River.
A major flood peak above levels seen during the April 1988 floods was recorded at Menangle on Thursday afternoon, where the Nepean River reached 16.83 metres before falling back to 11.75 metres by 7am on Friday.
Residents in Camden and Chipping Norton in Sydney’s south-west and Woronora, Bonnet Bay and Gronos Point were earlier ordered to evacuate as flood waters began to rise on Thursday.
People were also warned to prepare for evacuation in parts of Ebenezer, Emu Plains, Mulgoa, Sackville North, Pitt Town Bottoms, Camden, Elderslie, Wallacia Weir and North Richmond.
Three evacuation centres have opened in western Sydney.
The commissioner of Resilience NSW, Shane Fitzsimmons, told Channel Nine that having to repeatedly evacuate due to flooding was “really taking a toll with people right across NSW”.