Sat. Nov 26th, 2022

The town of Condobolin in central and western New South Wales is experiencing the worst flooding in its history, with the expected peak still days away.

The National Emergency Service predicts the Lachlan River in the town 100km west of Forbes will peak at 7.8m – a record flood height – on Monday. On Saturday afternoon, an order was issued to evacuate the low-lying parts of the city.

A temporary embankment more than 3km long, made of earth and sandbags, was built to protect Condobolin’s CBD. However, many houses in low-lying areas have already been flooded.

The ‘great wall of the apartment’ that holds back the flood water. It stretches for about 4 km separating the Condobolin CBD from the water. An incredible amount of effort was invested in the preparation of the city. @abcvijesti pic.twitter.com/7tkGN4ZKn1

— Kamin Gock (@kamingock) November 19, 2022

NSW SES Chief Superintendent Ashley Sullivan told ABC News the “threat from the Lachlan River is real and heading towards the city”.

In the 24 hours to Saturday morning there were 113 active warnings across NSW, including 23 emergency warnings.

In that period, the emergency service saved nine people and received 245 requests for help.

Sullivan said multiple flash flood warnings on many rivers posed a “significant flood threat in western and southern NSW”.

Apart from the Lachlan, rivers that have experienced major flooding include the Murray around Moama and downstream, as well as the Murrumbidgee, where the peak of the flood is towards the Riverina town of Hay.

Sullivan said major flooding in the Darling River system had left towns such as Walgett and Collarenebri flooded for weeks and water was heading towards Bourke, where flooding had already started.

As floodwaters receded in Forbes and rapid damage assessments began, Sullivan said there was still “significant risk” to communities downstream.

Orders have been issued to prepare to evacuate Bedgerabong and Warroo, west of Forbes, and the lowland estates around Menindee.

Flood water blocked the entrance to the city in Forbes on Saturday.
Flood water blocked the entrance to the city in Forbes on Saturday. Photo: Lucy Cambourn/AAP

Forbes District Mayor Phyllis Miller said: “Down the line, our little communities of Bedgerabong, Warroo, Corinella, Jemalong – they’re all bearing the brunt of the water that came through Forbes.”

Miller told Guardian Australia she was unhappy that the flood recovery base camp was set up 32km away in Parkes, rather than Forbes.

“We need people in our city, who live and breathe with us as we go through the flood and help us come out the other end. We don’t need them in another city where we have storms and then they are cut off for two days.”

She said the road was flooded two days earlier last week and help was unable to get through.

“We were still recovering from the high of last week. We had rubbish all along the footpath, which needed to be collected and taken to the rubbish tip, and we had no people on the ground because the people who would have been doing it were flooded in Parkes,” she said.

“So our Forbes District Council staff got together and got rid of all that rubbish so it didn’t end up in our waterways and our river systems when the next flood hits us.”

Miller said her biggest frustration was the lack of consultation – not asking the community what they wanted and needed.

Before and after the Forbes flood

Before and after the Forbes flood

An extra person staying in another city also deprived Forbes’ economy of much-needed stimulation, she said.

“Certainly I understand that they could stay in Parkes when we’re in a flood, but when we go into recovery, those people should be in our community and live and work here and give our community an opportunity to have some economic benefit from our recovery,” Miller said.

As floodwaters receded in Forbes on Friday, the town went from three divided to two as south Forbes was reconnected to the CBD. However, the northern part of Forbes remains cut off.