The number of New South Wales residents forced from their homes by flooding is “trickling down” with fewer than 9,000 still unable to return, as rivers across the state recede and the sun comes out.
The SES has started assessing damage in flood-affected areas with most rivers having peaked and evacuation orders being lifted.
Some 1,300 properties around NSW have been assessed for damage so far with 75 declared “potentially uninhabitable”.
There are just under 9,000 people still under evacuation orders, with 76,000 either permitted to return home or no longer subject to evacuation warnings.
Flood evacuation orders were lifted in several areas of north-western Sydney late on Thursday night including South Creek at Mulgrave and the Hawkesbury River from Wisemans Ferry to Brooklyn and in Vineyard.
Most orders that remain are around Moree and the Clarence River in northern NSW and the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley in north-west Sydney.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s flood manager, Justin Robinson, on Friday told reporters those residents would soon be able to return home. The flood situation across the entire Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley was expected to ease by Monday and river levels in Moree were dropping fast, he said.
Major flooding continued on Friday morning at Maclean in the northern rivers region, while the situation in Grafton and Ulmarra had eased.
Now the focus turns to inland rivers, through which huge volumes of water will flow into the Menindee Lakes.
A flood peak is moving through Boggabilla on the Queensland border and will work its way through the Barwon and Darling rivers over the next three months.
Robinson warned that although the sun was out in NSW, people should still avoid flooded rivers.
“Having high rivers, a sunny weekend, children playing … is a pretty dangerous combination,” he said. “It’s always at the end of the event where people get a bit more relaxed and start to make small mistakes.”
The SES said on Friday there had been 12,500 requests for help since last week – 618 in the previous 24 hours – and 1,000 flood rescues. About 500 SES volunteers remain in the field.
Meanwhile, the search for an elderly woman missing on the flood-hit mid-north coast has intensified after police pulled her car from a swollen river.
Adele Morrison was last seen at a shopping centre in Gloucester after leaving home in Port Macquarie on 16 March.
Police located the 78-year-old’s car partially submerged in the Barrington River on Thursday but Morrison was not inside.
A man died in Glenorie in north-west Sydney on Wednesday while another man’s body was found on the same day in a submerged car in the Gold Coast hinterland.
Mostly clear skies are forecast across NSW for the next week but the east coast low season has only just begun, the bureau warned. More extreme weather events in the coming months are possible.
The state’s premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and the prime minister, Scott Morrison, meanwhile, on Friday spent time with emergency service workers in Wauchope west of Port Macquarie.