Thousands hung out to dry in the west


Thousands hung out to dry in the west

Date January 29, 2013 31 reading now

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Jacob Saulwick, Peter Hannam, Gemma Khaicy

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Escape route … the Ryan family stand at the back fence, the only escape route if severe flooding came to their home in South Windsor. Photo: Brendan Esposito

LARGE swaths of far-western Sydney remain vulnerable to the types of flooding that occurred in Brisbane two years ago and that are ravaging parts of Queensland and northern NSW.

Reports prepared for the O’Farrell government say large-scale casualties and billions of dollars in property damage would be expected unless the Warragamba Dam wall is raised 23 metres to reduce the chance of flooding in the Hawkesbury Nepean Valley, or roads are improved to let people escape from a flood. The dire warning is not predicted to eventuate from the latest downpour.

”Some people rank it as potentially the greatest disaster we could face,” the chief executive of Infrastructure NSW, Paul Broad, said in releasing his report in October.

The report by the consultants Molino Stewart outlines the devastation that would occur if there was a repeat of the largest recorded flood, in 1867.


It would put at risk more than 26,000 people in places such as Emu Plains, Penrith and Windsor, and cause thousands more to evacuate. An 1867-level flood would hit about 7000 homes, cause significant structural damage to 1200, flood more than 1600 businesses, and cause more than $3 billion in damage.

The chance of such a flood was put at about one in 200 but because of the failure to upgrade roads in the region, thousands of people would be unable to leave.

A separate report by the same consultancy for the NSW Department of Planning in 2011 predicted that even with a smaller flood – a one in 100-year event – 10,500 of about 48,000 vehicles would be unable to leave the area.

According to this report, the State Emergency Service has an evacuation plan for about 60,000 people in the Hawkesbury Nepean Valley but the number of people who could require evacuation has risen to closer to 90,000.

”There is insufficient road capacity for much of Windsor to evacuate and Richmond and Bligh Park evacuation traffic may block traffic evacuating from Penrith,” the report said.

”Emu Plains does not have enough time for all of its development to evacuate.”

Infrastructure NSW said raising the wall at Warragamba would cost about $411 million; the road upgrades $500 million to $600 million.

The deputy mayor of Hawkesbury, Tiffany Tree, said: ”It won’t become apparent until something really serious happens. We haven’t had a big flood for quite a while. We’re due for one.”

The Premier, Barry O’Farrell, wrote to the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils this month saying the government had started a strategic review to ”assess a broad range of options to help minimise the potential economic and social impacts of flooding”. The review has no completion date.

The Ryan family has lived in South Windsor for more than 30 years. ”If we get a reasonable flood here, we’d be affected,” said Patrick Ryan. ”The only escape would be through the back fence, through the mud.”

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