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Man dead in flood, evacuations ordered

| 23.05,09. 02:36 PM |

Man dead in flood, evacuations ordered

May 23, 2009 11:17am

FLOODING in northern New South Wales has prompted the evacuation of thousands of people and claimed the life of a 70-year-old man whose body was found near his car.

The man's death comes as State Emergency Services urge residents in Kempsey and Grafton in the state's north to follow evacuation orders as river waters rise.

Officers were called to a submerged car in floodwaters on South Arm Road at Raleigh, south of Coffs Harbour, about 5.15pm (AEST) yesterday, police said.

"Police and other emergency services attempted to reach the location but were cut off by floodwaters some 8km from where the vehicle was sighted," a NSW police statement said.

Several attempts were made to reach the silver Toyota Hilux before officers gained access shortly after midnight.

Police found the body of a 70-year-old local man nearby.

A post mortem will be conducted and a report is being prepared for the coroner.

The SES has urged Kempsey residents to follow evacuation orders before the Macleay River overtops the levee and floods the town and surrounding roads around midday.

Grafton residents have also been ordered to evacuate.

The SES estimates 21,500 people have been isolated, including 16,000 in Grafton where about 2,000 people have been evacuated with expectations the town could be cut off for more than two days.

The bureau of Meteorology says the Macleay River at Kempsey is now predicted to reach seven metres.

SES spokesman Greg Slater said the Pacific highway to the north of Kempsey had already closed.
"Numerous streets in and around the CBD area will start to close either through local heavy rainfall, just water lying around, or as the levee starts to overtop it will also start to close those streets," he told Sky News.

"Transport and moving around in that CBD will become problematic."

He said the situation "is serious" and people who did not have their own vehicle or needed assistance moving should call SES assistance 132500.

"We really need the community to get behind this evacuation."

Coastal areas of NSW could also be subject to storm damage, he said.

"Whilst we've probably seen the worst of the rainfall, there is this low pressure system hovering off the east coast.

"That will be still associated with some quite strong winds, obviously high seas and predicted a high tide later today."

He said storm surges could be associated with the storm system.

"Coastal areas certainly aren't out of the threshold at the moment in terms of wave damage."
Just a month after flooding, towns on the Bellinger River remain isolated.

He said those towns would be isolated about three to four days if no further rain falls in the area.
Floodwaters at Grafton peaked at around 3am (AEST) today at 7.3 metres, slightly lower than expected.

But Mr Slater said it would take a "significant amount of time" for floodwaters in the north of the state to drop.

"The water that has pooled on to the floodplain, it's notoriously slow to go down," Mr Slater said.

"So we could be talking weeks of inundation for some areas, if not longer."

Country Energy says they have received over 30,000 calls from customers in the past two days.

The Bureau of Meteorology says conditions should improve on Sunday for the north coast region.
NSW Premier Nathan Rees has declared the Tweed, Byron, Ballina, Lismore, Kyogle, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley local government areas disaster zones.

The Bureau of Meteorology has flood warnings in place for the Tweed River, the Richmond Wilsons River, Clarence River, Belinger River, Macleay River, Hastings River, Manning River, Orara River, Brunswick River and the Nambucca River.

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