Australia flash flooding traps thousands

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Map of Australia highlighting New South Wales
Image: Martynam.

300 millimeters (11.8 inches) of rain fell in six hours resulting in flash flooding on the New South Wales mid-north coast in Australia trapping thousands.

"We're looking at a flood that is around the one in one hundred year flood level," said Phil Campbell, State Emergency Service spokesperson.

Ambulance crews spent the night rescuing stranded residents caught off guard by the sudden deluge. As many as 2,700 residents had been trapped by the floodwaters. 420 people sought refuge in evacuation centres over night, of these all but 70 have returned home. The Red Cross flood evacuation centre in Urunga was left without power but still harbours 300 who sought refuge there.

Inland floodwaters trapped more than 1,000 residents in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales over night.

"It does seem likely that we'll need to make a natural disaster emergency declaration and that's something which obviously then brings some resources in. The most immediate challenge of course is for the 3,000 or so people who are still isolated and over 300 who are in evacuation centres at the moment." said Steve Whan, NSW Emergency Services Minister.

Residents are being urged not to travel through the flooded areas.

Floodwaters are starting to recede, however the Bureau of Meteorology does not see an end to the heavy rains.