By Lucy Cramer

WELLINGTON, Oct 8 (Reuters) – Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, braced for heavier rains and possible flooding on Saturday as the number of weather warnings rose at 64 and authorities were urging people to be extremely careful and avoid travel.

Rains are expected to hit Sydney and flood warnings have been issued for rivers both nearby and inland as weather officials said rain since Wednesday in parts of the state has increased their level.

“There is a significant risk of flash flooding across our state,” Dominic Perrottet, New South Wales Premier, told reporters.

“We currently have a situation where our dams are full, our rivers are full, so with heavy rain expected, we ask everyone to continue to be careful.”

Preparations for flood control included Australian Defense Force and emergency service helicopters and 500 emergency service volunteers put on standby.

There have been 10 flood rescues in the past 24 hours, the emergency service added.

Eastern Australia is in the throes of a rare third consecutive year of the La Nina weather event, which brings more rain. With nearly three months remaining in 2022, Sydney this week recorded its wettest year since records began in 1858.

More rain expected overnight will increase the risk of flash flooding, landslides and fallen trees, said Steph Cooke, the state’s emergency services minister.

“We are really asking communities, especially those in Sydney tonight, to be careful,” Cooke said.

The challenge is made more daunting by expectations that the roads will be busier than usual as schools return Monday after spring break and around 200,000 spectators return home from a supercar championship.

Authorities have urged motorists not to drive on flooded roads.

The rain is expected to ease on Sunday before moving offshore, although the middle of the week could bring heavier precipitation, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Australia’s east coast has been repeatedly hit by devastating floods this year. In March, rising waters forced tens of thousands of people from their homes, killing at least 13 people. (Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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