More than 9,000 people were ordered out of their homes in the southeastern Australian city of Wagga Wagga on Tuesday, as fears grew that a levee holding back the swollen Murrumbidgee River would fail.
Floods have hit three eastern Australian states this week — New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland — inundating hundreds of homes and causing millions of dollars in damage, according to news reports.
Two men who tried to cross waterways in cars were swept to their deaths.
In NSW, nearly 13,000 people in total had been evacuated, according to ABC Radio.
Meanwhile, a state of emergency was called in Wagga Wagga, according to TVNZ.
The Murrumbidgee river was predicted to peak at 10.9 meters (65.2 feet) — its highest peak since 1853 — sparking fears that the water would breach the town's levee and flood the entire downtown area, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported, citing the Bureau of Meteorology.
Deputy Commissioner Dieta Geski from the State Emergency Service (SES) told the ABC that SES crews are watching the city's flood defenses.
"We're watching with interest as the design height down there is 10.7 meters and there's uncertainty about the integrity of the levee above that height," he said.
He said police and Army recruits had door knocked properties in the city to order people to evacuate to centers established on higher ground.
"The police have actually gone to houses. It has been very positive indeed and people are being very compliant," he said. "Some people have said they're going to stay at the property but we're encouraging all people to leave.
"We don't want the situation where people's lives are at danger or in fact we endanger people that have to come to rescue people, should that eventuate.
"There was definitely no panic, there were no massive queues beyond a slight increase at petrol stations and supermarkets last night. I think the townspeople of Wagga really did take it all in their stride".
New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell said State and Federal governments would look at what assistance they could provide to flood-affected residents.