Thousands told to evacuate as floods hit Australia

Sydney drowns in rain

Thousands of Australians were today ordered to evacuate their homes in Sydney's northwest parts and in New South Wales state as heavy rainfall flooded rivers and waterways.

State Emergency Service Commissioner Murray Kear said that 3,500 people were subject to evacuation orders as 75 per cent of the state, the most populous in the country, was affected by flooding.

Days of heavy rain after a damp summer have seen Sydney's Warragamba Dam, the main source of the city's drinking water, reach capacity for the first time in 14 years prompting the water to move over its spillways late yesterday.

The swollen Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers are now threatening areas around Sydney's northwest. "This is a moderate flood but it's unusual because we haven't seen water in this river system in a while," Kear said.

Further west in New South Wales, the town of Bathurst had been cut in two by floodwater while across the state some 2,300 people had been left isolated by the surging torrents.

A severe weather warning for flash flood is in place in large areas of New South Wales and the southern state of Victoria is also bracing for heavy rainfall.

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