More Evacuations as Floods Hit New South Wales, Dam to Spill

More than 1,000 people are preparing to leave their homes in New South Wales as floods threaten at least half of Australia’s most populous state and as a dam that supplies Sydney’s water threatens to spill.

About 1,500 residents have been told to prepare to evacuate, State Emergency Service Commissioner Murray Kear said at a press conference broadcast on Sky News today. Warragamba Dam, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of the nation’s biggest city Sydney, is 98 percent full after heavy rain this week, the Sydney Catchment Authority said on its website.

About 1,560 people have already been evacuated from the towns of Cowra, Cooma and Goulburn, in the state’s southeast, due to flooding, the SES said. Parts of Bega, a town of about 4,500 people 400 kilometers south of Sydney, were evacuated last night, it said. Floodwaters in northern New South Wales last month damaged homes, ruined cotton crops and caused cattle sales to be canceled, one year after natural disasters cost the Australian economy A$9 billion ($9.7 billion).

“We’re expecting major flooding on a number of rivers as we go into the weekend,” Julie Evans, a meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology, said by telephone today. While rain may ease in the state’s southern districts today, they may be affected by heavy falls in the next two days, she said.

Warragamba Dam is expected to spill tonight, according to the weather bureau. The dam’s catchment area may receive another 50 millimeters (2 inches) of rain in the next three days, Evans said from Sydney.

Winter Crops

“There is ample time for the water logging to ease before winter crop planting commences in April, and we believe the boost to soil moisture will buoy crop and livestock production in 2012,” Luke Mathews, a commodity strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), said in an e-mailed note today.

Newcrest Mining Ltd.’s (NCM) mines in New South Wales state’s Cadia Valley weren’t affected by the most recent rain, spokeswoman Kerrina Watson said yesterday. The company cut its full-year gold output estimate by 6 percent in December after a landslide at Cadia Hill mine and heavy rain in Papua New Guinea. BHP Billiton Ltd.’s (BHP) operations “aren’t experiencing any significant impact due to wet weather,” Kelly Quirke, a Melbourne-based spokeswoman, said in an e-mail yesterday.

Most of New South Wales may receive 25 millimeters to 100 millimeters of rain in the four days to March 5, according to a model on the bureau’s website. Some areas in the state’s center may get 150 millimeters to 300 millimeters, it shows.

To contact the reporter for this story: Phoebe Sedgman in Melbourne at psedgman2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Johnson at ejohnson28@bloomberg.net

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