Floodwaters in northern NSW are ebbing, and authorities believe the region could begin the clean-up in two days.
NSW State Emergency Service Commissioner Mark Smethurst said there was a lot of work to be done, particularly in Lismore.
“We expect by Monday that we’ll be into the recovery period,” he told reporters in Lismore on Saturday.
The height of the water had dropped by up to three metres in some areas.
“We will advise the communities when we see it’s safe for them to go in,” Mr Smethurst said.
“We understand there is no issue with electricity, but sewerage is bit of a problem, particularly down in Lismore.”
The SES will continue to monitor rainfall and river peaks throughout the area on Saturday, but if all is well in the afternoon, it may be able to declare the worst over.
Mr Smethurst said the days since the flooding began on Thursday had been hectic for rescue efforts.
“Most of those flood rescues were for people trapped in their own buildings who did not heed the warnings when they were told to evacuate. It’s been a real problem up here,” he said.
Lismore and Murwillumbah were the main towns hit by the flooding caused by ex-cyclone Debbie, which hammered north Queensland earlier in the week.
A number of areas continued to be affected by flooding on Saturday, and some like the Seagulls estate near Tweed Head had been inundated and cut off.
An Aboriginal community on Cabbage Tree Island has been evacuated.
There are concerns also for the towns of Ballina and Woodburn, which are downstream from Lismore and in the path of floodwaters retreating to the coast.