Flood warnings as southeast Australia lashed by heavy rain

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Cars slosh through a flooded road in Heathcote in Australia’s Victoria State, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022. Rivers across Australia’s most populous states New South Wales and Victoria, as well as the island state of Tasmania were rising dangerously with catchments soaked by months of above-average rainfall. (James Ross/AAP Image via AP)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Flood warnings were issued, hundreds of homes were evacuated, thousands more lost power and a man was missing as heavy rain lashed southeast Australia on Thursday.

Rivers across Australia’s most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria, and the island state of Tasmania were rising dangerously with catchments soaked by months of above-average rainfall.

Around 250 homes in the New South Wales city of Forbes, west of Sydney, were ordered to be evacuated by Thursday night ahead of major flooding.

The State Emergency Service issued an order for 17 streets including the central downtown precinct to be evacuated by 8 p.m., (0900 GMT) with the Lachlan River expected to reach a major flood peak of 10.6 meters (34 feet, 9 inches) by Friday.

Police said a 63-year-old man was last seen on Tuesday on a rural property on the Lachlan River near the New South Wales town of Hillston, west of Sydney. He was reported missing hours later but emergency crews have failed to find any sign of him.

Police on Tuesday found the body of a 46-year-old man in his submerged car in floodwater near the city of Bathurst, west of Sydney.

To the south in Victoria, emergency crews rescued at least 23 people driving through floodwaters in rural areas after heavy overnight rain, officials said.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews urged people not to drive or walk into floodwaters.

“It’s very dangerous for you, and it’s also very dangerous for the person who has to come to rescue you,” Andrews said.

State Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the heavy rain would reach metropolitan Melbourne, Victoria’s capital and Australia’s most populous city after Sydney, late Thursday.

Officials have been door-knocking along the Maribyrnong River in inner-Melbourne to ensure residents were ready to evacuate if necessary.

“We will see significant rainfall across the metropolitan area and … see potential for flash flooding,” Crisp said.

Sarah-Jane Gill, a manager at the Rochester Riverside Holiday Park in the town of Rochester, north of Melbourne, said she had evacuated guests on Thursday as the Campaspe River rose.

“It is scary. You laugh in the face of it all, but we’re very nervous,” Gill said.

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued major flood warnings for the Campaspe and another four Victorian waterways.

The Campaspe’s peak at Rochester on Friday could exceed a record 9.12 meters (29 feet, 11 inches) set in 2011. That could flood 250 Rochester homes above the floorboards and isolate another 700 homes, the State Emergency Service said.

Nearly 10,000 homes in Victoria were without power overnight, with hundreds yet to be restored, said the State Control Center, which manages Victoria’s emergencies, and electricity distributor Powercor.

In the northern Tasmanian town of Railton, 90 homes were threatened by floodwaters after overnight rain.

The State Emergency Service issued an emergency warning for Railton, urging residents to prepare to evacuate.

The state’s northern half was on high alert for flash flooding, with heavy rain forecast to continue into Friday morning.

State Emergency Service director Leon Smith said flood peaks in northern Tasmania might reach levels last experienced in 2016 when three people drowned.

“It is a very dynamic situation that we’re monitoring, but inevitably we will see flooding that will have significant consequences,” Smith said.

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