Rescuers will continue to try to get to residents of northern NSW stricken by floods this morning, after many people were forced to shelter on their roofs.
Around 400 people were unaccounted for at 6pm last night in Lismore, with one family even cutting a hole in their tin roof to get outside and escape the rising waters.
However, the SES said later 12 people were missing – but said they could have gone to evacuation centres.
Local residents were told to leave the work to the SES, who said last night they had already carried out 900 rescues.
Earlier, people had been going door to door in boats and on jet skis ahead of the Wilson River peaking higher than record floods in the 1950s and 1970s – but were later told it was too risky.
“It was up to the top of the roof when we got out,” one man said. “This is just insane.”
Dozens of people also had to be rescued in Mullumbimby, Murwillumbah and Tumbulgum.
Meanwhile, residents in low lying parts of Casino, west of Lismore, were told to get out last night as floods worsened there.
Yesterday, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet called the floods “unprecedented,” and warned “we would expect things to get worse.”
Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg said called the event ‘life threatening,” and said the SES couldn’t cope.
“We have broken records, flood records dating back to 1854 already and there is no let up,” he said.
NSW Police called for people to be patient after being inundated with calls for help.
Pumps in Lismore were unable to deal with the level of water, which was the highest for over 100 years, as over 700mm of rain fell.
The ADF was called into help, but weather hampered efforts earlier in the day, officials said.
‘Because of the weather conditions it has been difficult to get our into the helicopters and our boats into the water,” NSW Commissioner Carlene York, said.
The LifeFlight helicopter was later able to take off.
Southern Cross University was among spots used as an evacuation centre, with a Lismore Council appeal made for stretchers for people to sleep on.
However, Lismore City Council said last night on Facebook water levels were falling, with residents likely anxiously awaiting news on the state of their homes.
Flooding could move south
Last night the Bureau of Meteorology cancelled a weather warning for the northern NSW area – but the bad weather is moving south, from the NSW Central Coast south of Gosford to Bega on the South Coast.
The warning takes in Sydney.
“Heavy rainfall has now moved off the northeast coast,” it said.
“The immediate threat of severe weather has passed, but the situation will continue to be monitored and further warnings will be issued if necessary.
“Heavy Rainfall which may lead to flash flooding is forecast to develop over parts of the Metropolitan, Illawarra, South Coast and parts of Central Tablelands and Southern Tablelands Forecast Districts on either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.”
Forecasters warned of rainfall of up to 20mm in six hours, thunderstorms, “life threatening flash flooding” and wind gusts up to 90km an hour.
Multiple flood warnings remain in place for northern NSW rivers.
The Wilson, Clarence, Brunswick, Orara, Tweed and Richmond Rivers and Marshalls Creek have major flood alerts.
There are currently more than 15 Flood Evacuation Orders in place for the Richmond-Tweed and Clarence Nambucca regions.
That includes for Lismore, South Lismore, North Lismore, Kyogle, Casino, Coraki, Tumbulgum, Mullumbimby, Murwillumbah, East Murwillumbah, South Murwillumbah, Condong, Billinudgel, Rocky Creek Dam, Ocean Shores, New Brighton, Brunswick Heads, South Golden Beach, Brushgrove, Cowper, Southgate, Iluka and Ulmarra.
Disaster recovery payments for those affected by floods of $100 per adult and $400 per child can be claimed via Services Australia.
In 1954 and 1974 the Wilson River in Lismore, NSW, peaked at 12.11mm.
In 2017 it hit just under that at 11.59m.
The BOM saying it peaked last night at 14.4m.
Dunoon in Lismore recorded 775mm of rain, the second highest daily total for all of NSW on record.
Lismore its self had 467mm, making it the wettest day in 138 years of records.