Central NSW braced for more flooding as Lachlan River set to hit 70-year-high level

Forbes braced for second inundation in a fortnight as woman’s body found in Eugowra flood waters after ‘wall of water’ decimates NSW town

Communities in New South Wales are braced for more flooding with warnings of historic river rises and prolonged peaks in the state’s central west.

Across the state, the authorities have issued 117 warnings and 23 “evacuate now” orders, including for central western Forbes and Gooloogong, Gunnedah in the north-east and the southern border town of Moama.

In Forbes, major flooding is expected with the Lachlan River likely to reach 10.8 metres on Thursday morning, similar to the historic inundation of June 1952.

The peak could remain through to the weekend, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

“We have issued emergency warnings, as well as other areas along the Lachlan River including Condobolin, Gooloogong and Cowra,” said State Emergency Service assistant commissioner, Sean Kearns.

“We are urging communities to stay away from flooded areas, follow advice from emergency services and evacuate immediately if asked to do so.”

Along the Lachlan, major flooding is also occurring at Nanami, Cottons Weir, Jemalong, Condobolin, Euabalong and Hillston.

The SES said it would continue to resupply isolated communities, including residents of Walgett, Lightning Ridge and Collarenebri, which cover an area roughly the size of Switzerland.

His comments came after a woman’s body has been found in flood waters in the New South Wales town of Eugowra, where locals say they are still in shock after an inland “tsunami” devastated the area.

Police are yet to formally identify the body but say they believe it is 60-year-old Dianne Smith, a receptionist at the local doctor’s office who had been missing since Monday’s catastrophic flash flooding.

An elderly man, 85-year-old Ljubisa “Les” Vugec, remained unaccounted for.

Dianne Smith, who went missing on Monday morning as flash flooding hit Eugowra
Dianne Smith, 60, went missing on Monday morning as flash flooding hit Eugowra. Photograph: NSW police force Facebook page

Guardian Australia spoke to Smith’s brother, Daniel Townsend, shortly before police announced a body had been found.

“I’m not worried about anything other than her right now,” he said, standing in his ruined news agency. “I can’t even begin to tell you how I’m feeling. I’m just waiting for that knock on the door. I feel terrible.”

Townsend pointed to a line drawn about 1 metre high in his shop.

“That’s how high the water got, it even lifted the cool room,” he said. “Everything is destroyed, we have to start again.

“I’ve literally only got the clothes on my back, I have nothing else. It’s all just material really, while we wait for my sister.”

The sheer force of the flash flooding was still on full display on Wednesday, with cars tossed onto their sides, glass and debris everywhere and locals attempting to take stock of it all.

🚨NSW SES has 117 current warnings across NSW:
23 Emergency Warnings
74 Watch and Act
20 Advice

👉 See the interactive map and more information on all warnings on our website: https://t.co/BCnxAdOSBj. pic.twitter.com/1t80KYAHtM

— NSW SES (@NSWSES) November 16, 2022

Curtis and Darren Wykamp were cleaning out their father’s home after he was airlifted off his roof on Monday after being stuck there for five or six hours.

The brothers carried out pieces of destroyed furniture, stepping between mud and rubble.

“It’s just complete destruction – this house pretty much needs to be bulldozed, the water filled up the bottom level,” said Curtis.

“I can only describe it as a war zone. There’s nothing salvageable here.”

Daniel Townsend, the brother of Dianne Smith
Daniel Townsend, the brother of Dianne Smith, who went missing in flood waters in Eugowra. Photograph: Mostafa Rachwani/The Guardian

Their dad was due to retire in December but is spending his nights at an emergency shelter in Orange.

Curtis said that while his father was a tough man, he could feel the emotions when they were reunited.

“It’s pretty tough seeing this, it’s heartbreaking to have to go through his home and throw everything out,” he said.

State Emergency Service chaplain Steve Hall said Eugowra had been decimated in the disaster.

“Everything they hold dear has been swept away in a wall of water.”

People in parts of the north-western town of Gunnedah and the central town of Gooloogong have been told to evacuate. The Namoi River was predicted to peak near 8.2 metres.

In the 24 hours to Wednesday afternoon, the SES responded to 261 calls for help and performed 17 flood rescues.

The NSW emergency services minister, Steph Cooke, said 122 warnings were active statewide and hundreds of homes had been destroyed.

Fourteen people were rescued in Forbes on Tuesday night after the Plainsman Motel was inundated.

The evacuees included an elderly couple and their daughter who were rescued by helicopter.

About 1,000 people and up to 600 homes and businesses are affected by evacuation orders in the town.

AAP contributed to this report


Mostafa Rachwani

The GuardianTramp

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