Sydney - Hundreds more people were evacuated on Wednesday in Australia's flood-hit southeast, as residents of sodden Wagga Wagga breathed a sigh of relief after a levee on the swollen Murrumbidgee River held firm.
About 600 people were ordered to leave their homes in Griffith, north-west of Wagga Wagga, as floodwaters threatened the low-lying New South Wales town.
“Heavy rains over the Mirrool Creek upstream of Griffith have resulted in flooding within the area. Rising flood water is currently threatening parts of the city,” the State Emergency Service (SES) said.
The evacuation order came as a severe weather warning was issued for Sydney, the south coast, and the Illawarra and Hunter regions of New South Wales (NSW) with heavy rain forecast that could lead to flash flooding.
Floods have hit three eastern states this week, sweeping two men to their deaths after they attempted to cross waterways in cars, inundating hundreds of homes and causing millions of dollars in damage.
In Wagga Wagga, NSW's largest inland city, 9 000 people were evacuated on Tuesday as the surging Murrumbidgee threatened to breach its levee.
While around 240 homes in the north of the town were damaged - some with water up to the roof - many more in the central business district were spared after the river peaked just below the levee limit.
Residents were given the all-clear to return home on Wednesday.
“The river has peaked and the task now for us is to try and get people back in their homes,” SES deputy commissioner Dieter Geske told reporters.
NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell said it would be weeks or months before the real cost of the crisis was known, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard due to visit the area later on Wednesday.
“What Julia Gillard will see today is the devastation caused by these floods,” he said.
Red Cross national emergency services manager Andrew Coghlan warned flood victims to brace themselves for the long road ahead.
“People need to prepare themselves for the challenge of not only cleaning up and repairing damage to their property but also overcoming the disruption caused to family life and the community,” he said.
Around NSW more than 13 000 people have been asked to leave their homes due to flooding, with hundreds of properties inundated and a number of rural communities isolated by the rising waters.
Flooding has also hit rural regions in Victoria and Queensland states. - Sapa-AFP