Residents of at least two towns on the New South Wales mid north coast have been forced to evacuate because of overflowing sewage.
The evacuations in Grassy Head and Stuarts Point, near Nambucca Heads, are the latest triggered by the floods of the past week.
Some 32 residents in Grassy Head were given gumboots by Fire and Rescue NSW around 8pm on Friday evening and required to leave their homes.
They were then decontaminated and taken by bus to Yarrahapinni Adventist Youth Centre.
About an hour later, the local emergency operations controller issued an evacuation order for Stuarts Point, a 10-minute drive south.
Septic systems overflowed into yards and streets, affecting 45 homes, police said. The overflow was due to rising groundwater.
NSW Health said there was a health risk from faecal matter and bacteria and residents would have to be assessed before they were allowed to leave.
“Vehicles outside the contaminated area can be moved but occupants must undergo decontamination and evacuation registration prior to departure,” police said.
Police said emergency services would be door-knocking in the area and residents might have to abandon the area for seven to 10 days.
The evacuation order affected homes on on Ocean, First, Second, Third, Fifth, Seventh and Ninth avenues.
Some beaches on the Central Coast have also been closed due to the risk of hazardous debris and pollutants.
Meanwhile, animals including bandicoots and tiny turtle hatchlings have been washing up dead across the state, with wildlife rescuers fearing populations already ravaged by prolonged drought and catastrophic bushfires will plummet further.
“We’re seeing kangaroo joeys coming in whose mums have drowned, wombats displaced and taking shelter under cars, possums with head injuries, very small hatchling turtles being washed up on beaches,” International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) spokeswoman Josey Sharrad said. “We’re even getting reports of bull sharks attacking cattle in the floodwaters.”
She said many animals had hypothermia or pneumonia.
Tens of thousands of people across NSW have been given the all-clear to return to their flood-ravaged homes to start rebuilding but evacuation orders remain around Moree and the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley in north-west Sydney.
Those returning to their flood-damaged homes should first check for damage to the roof and walls and ensure the power and gas are off, the SES said.
Residents should wear protective gear while cleaning up, have a supply of fresh water and be wary of contaminated floodwaters.
The SES has also started assessing the damage in affected areas, with at least 75 properties so far declared potentially uninhabitable.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s Justin Robinson said the situation across the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley should ease by Monday and river levels in Moree were quickly dropping.
About 500 SES volunteers remain in the field, supported by hundreds of soldiers who have made their way down from Queensland to help with the clean up.