1 600 evacuated in Australia

2012-03-02 07:27

Sydney - About 1 600 Australians were forced from their homes by flooding on Friday, and 22 rescued from rising waters as the torrents hit or threatened large parts of the most populous state of New South Wales.

Sydney has experienced one of its wettest summers in decades and the rain has continued to fall at the start of autumn, leaving the city's biggest dam Warragamba set to overflow and vast areas of the state drenched.

Among the worst affected areas is the town of Goulburn, close to the national capital Canberra, which despite being at risk of having no drinking water just six years ago, is now experiencing flooding.

Rains eased overnight but a severe weather warning remains in place for much of the state and the Bureau of Meteorology said heavy rain and isolated thunderstorms could produce more flooding in the next 24 hours.

"We have actually been a little bit fortunate overnight in that rain did ease slightly; it's been a welcome relief," State Emergency Service (SES) spokesperson Andrew Richards said.

More rain expected

"Having said that, we are still on the alert that more rain will fall over the weekend."

In areas west of Sydney, residents have been warned not to drive or walk through floodwaters as the region braces for the extra water to flow down from the brimming Warragamba Dam.

Outside the city, farmers have been urged to move livestock, feed and other equipment to higher ground, with the major town of Bathurst expected to see significant flooding on Friday.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the main rainfall would be in the state's central and western areas, in places such as Mudgee and Dubbo, while there would be an easing in Goulburn, Queanbeyan and Windsor to the south.

"But we are expecting it to move back to the southern parts of the state over the weekend so people should stay on alert," forecaster Julie Evans said.

So far, no casualties have been reported.