Rescue efforts across northern New South Wales have been nonstop but hundreds of people are still unaccounted for as the state is gripped by a flood crisis.
“Right now there are around 400 people unaccounted for, trapped in their ceilings and on their roofs, waiting to be rescued,” 9News reporter Sophie Walsh said just after 6pm.
The rescue mission is expected to continue well into the night and follows hours of exhausting operations to reach people inundated by floodwaters on Monday.
A frantic rescue unfolded in the afternoon at a nursing home at Lismore.
A group of Fijian abattoir workers who arrived in Australia this month helped the State Emergency Services (SES) get to more than 60 residents who were stranded at the nursing home.
While the rain has started to ease and the river has peaked, residents are expected to find out the extent of the damage tomorrow.
9News reporter James Wilson captured the devastating impacts of the emergency, travelling through the CBD on a boat, where houses and businesses have submerged.
The city’s roads have turned into rivers, with vision capturing the Audi dealership and a Hungry Jack’s underwater on the main street.
“This is a hotel right here which is completely underwater,” Wilson said.
“The local Audi is completely destroyed. The water is going up the roof and this is what’s left of the roof and this is what’s left of the local Hungry Jack’s.
“This would normally be the main street here. This is the street where people drive and they go and do their shopping and we are driving boats right now, right over the top.
“We’re having to duck underneath power lines. That is how high the water is right now.”
There are about 400 people still yet to be accounted for in Lismore as emergency services rush to save people before it gets dark.
Dozens of people are trapped- unable to escape unless they are rescued by boat – with some people being forced to cut through their roofs to survive the flooding.
A constant stream of vessels are cruising down the main road, rescuing residents from properties, however, the number of people stranded outnumbers the number of emergency vessels on hand.
A young boy and his two parents have been rescued after being trapped inside their home, with floodwaters almost reaching the ceiling.
While a pregnant woman has been trapped inside a Booerie Creek roof since 5am, waiting to be rescued.
A family is also stranded with their two-month-old baby at Lismore Showgrounds and has made a desperate plea for help.
“I’m in a van, my work van. I have my son and girlfriend with the baby,” resident Michael told 9News.
“We were evacuated from the house this morning. They rung SES and they took a while, probably around two to three hours before they even got us.
“No one even got us then. We tried calling again. I knew they were busy. A mate down the road has seen our distress call and came and got us, brought us over to the Showground.
“We have been here since 8am this morning. Haven’t had anything to eat. We’re both hungry, the baby is hungry. All we’re pleading is to try and get the baby out.”
Michael said the water was “up to (their) armpits” in their home.
The Bureau of Meteorology has warned floodwaters may peak at 14.2 metres later today, which is almost two metres higher than the area’s worst-ever floods in 1954.
Meanwhile, the Wilsons River surged past 14 metres after 10am today.
“It is really a very, very dangerous and very, very volatile weather system that’s hit here and there are real concerns for residents,” Wilson said.
Mother and boys rescued thanks to Facebook post
A mother and her two young sons trapped by floodwaters in their NSW home have been rescued thanks to a Facebook post.
The South Lismore woman and her boys, one of them just three years old, were attempting to escape floodwaters around 10am when they realised it was too dangerous to climb onto the slippery roof of their Edward Street home.
The mother had no phone signal and, losing hope, she sent a distress message on the internet to a family friend overseas.
At the time, the trio was considering sheltering in the roof cavity of their home.
The overseas friend sought help via Sydney’s Narellan Fire Station Facebook page, writing the message: “Please small child in house TRAPPED GET HELP OUT THERE NOW PLEASE.”
An off-duty FRNSW firefighter, returning home after a holiday with her own family, received the message alert on her phone.
Triple Zero was finally reached and first responders were guided to the property to rescue the woman and her sons.
The family friend received news of the rescue and sent a follow-up message to the firefighter: “Daughter just made contact…they got them out…Thank you so much, guys/girls…God bless you.”
The incredible rescue was shared online by Fire and Rescue NSW.
They said people should always call Triple Zero in times of emergency.