The clean-up of flood-affected eastern NSW communities has begun in earnest, with thousands of buildings damaged.
The State Emergency Service has warned that floodwater can contain sewage, debris, and dead animals, so people must avoid entering it, playing in it or driving through it.
Multiple evacuation orders and warnings remain in the Hawkesbury Nepean Valley, the Mid North Coast and parts of Moree, but these are expected to be lifted as river levels fall.
Further west in the state, major flooding is expected along the Barwon River over coming weeks.
The NSW SES has received more than 23,000 calls for help from the public and volunteers have attended more than 13,000 jobs since the floods began.
Businesses in flood-affected areas will be able to access grants and bank loans to fund their recovery, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.
Morrison announced a loan scheme would be extended to small and medium businesses as he visited SES headquarters in western Sydney on Saturday morning.
He said the federal government will underwrite 80 per cent of bank loans of up to A$5 million for small and medium businesses in the flood-affected areas, with repayments to start two years into the loan.
It’s an extension of a support program already available for COVID-affected businesses.
“This is about backing the businesses and producers that are backing themselves to get back on their feet,” Morrison declared.
He promised “more support … more assistance” as the recovery continues.
The loans are on top of a recovery grants program jointly funded by the federal and NSW governments.
Small businesses can get up to A$50,000 and primary producers up to A$75,000 if they’ve been directly damaged by the floods.
As tens of thousands of people across NSW return to their homes, an emergency services task force is tackling the clean-up, including Australian Defence Force personnel, NSW Rural Fire Service and Fire and Rescue NSW.
The Australian Red Cross is warning of a lack of access to mental health services.
“Our volunteers have heard stories about the distress about leaving homes, livestock and even a change of clothes behind,” Red Cross NSW Director Poppy Brown said in a statement.
“Many of these communities have already endured years of concurrent disasters, from drought, bushfires, COVID-19 and now floods. The impact of this latest disaster is expected to be significant.”
Meanwhile the search for an elderly woman continues after police pulled her car from the swollen Barrington River on Thursday.
By Andi Yu