The New South Wales central west town of Condobolin is experiencing the worst flood in its history, and the expected peak is still days away.
The State Emergency Service has predicted the Lachlan River at Condobolin will peak at 7.8 metres on Monday, which would be a record flood height for the town. On Saturday afternoon an evacuation order was issued for low-lying parts of town.
A temporary levee more than 3km long, made out of dirt and sandbags, has been built to protect the town’s CBD. However, many homes in low-lying areas have already been inundated.
Ashley Sullivan, chief superintendent of NSW SES, told ABC News “the threat from the Lachlan River is real and heading towards the town”.
In the 24 hours to Saturday morning, there were 113 warnings active across NSW, including 23 emergency warnings.
The emergency service had rescued nine people in that period and received 245 requests for assistance.
Sullivan said the multiple major flood warnings across many rivers posed a “significant flood threat across western and southern New South Wales”.
In addition to the Lachlan, the rivers experiencing major flooding include the Murray River around Moama and downstream, as well as the Murrumbidgee, where a flood peak is heading towards the Riverina town of Hay.
Sullivan said the Darling River system’s major flood has left towns such as Walgett and Collarenebri flooded for weeks, and the water was heading towards Bourke where the inundation had already begun.
As flood waters receded in Forbes and rapid damage assessments began, Sullivan said there was still “significant risk” for communities downstream.
Prepare-to-evacuate orders have been issued for Bedgerabong and Warroo, west of Forbes, and low-lying properties around Menindee.
Phyllis Miller, the mayor of Forbes shire council, said: “Down the road, our small communities of Bedgerabong, Warroo, Corinella, Jemalong – they’re all suffering the brunt of the water that’s come through Forbes.”
Miller told Guardian Australia she was unhappy the flood recovery base camp was set up 32km away at Parkes rather than Forbes.
“We need people in our town, living and breathing with us as we’re going through a flood and helping us out the other end. We don’t need them in another town where we get storms, and then they’re cut off for two day.”
Miller said the road was flooded two days earlier last week and the recovery authorities help could not get through.
“We were still recovering from the peak the week before. We had rubbish all along the footpath, which needed to be collected and taken to the rubbish tip, and we had no people on ground because the people that would have been doing that were flooded in, over in Parkes.”
“So our Forbes shire council workers manned up and they got rid of all of that rubbish so it didn’t end up in our waterways and our river systems when we got the next flood.”
Miller said her greatest frustration was the lack of consultation not asking the community what they wanted and needed.
Having the extra people staying in another town also deprived the Forbes economy of much needed stimulation, she said.
“I certainly understand when we’re in flood, that they might stay in Parkes, but when we go into recovery mode, those people should be in our community and living and working here and giving our community the opportunity to have some economic benefit to our recovery,” Miller said.
As the flood waters receded in Forbes on Friday, the town went from being divided in three back to two as south Forbes was connected once more to the CBD. However, the north part of Forbes remains cut off.