SYDNEY, March 31 (Xinhua) -- Australia has declared five regions in the north a natural disaster zone on Friday, offering disaster assistance to residents in affected areas.
The announcement means Commonwealth Funding will be available for local councils to restore, clean and repair public assets in the communities of Tweed, Lismore, Byron, Richmond Valley and Ballina.
Farmers and business owners will also be eligible for flood relief, along with people that have had homes or belongings damaged by cyclone Debbie.
"We are committed to ensuring those impacted by flooding have the support they need to recover and rebuild and will extend assistance to other areas if required," New South Wales Minister for Police Troy Grant said in a statement.
At the moment, 20,000 people have been ordered to evacuate and more than 10,000 homes remain without power.
Emergency services have also warned residents to boil water before they drink it, as it is likely to be contaminated.
So far emergency services have responded to 300 flood rescues with police announcing a body had been found in the township of South Murwillumbah.
"All we can confirm is we've received reports someone has died," a police spokeswoman said. "We don't know if it's related to flooding."
Far from over, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has issued further weather warnings for the north.
With the Wilson River reaching 11.57 meters and the Kyogle River peaking at 17.33 meters on Friday, further downpour could be catastrophic.
"As this flood event is still unfolding, I urge people to stay safe and listen to the advice of the emergency management authorities," Federal Minister for Justice Michael Keenan said.
As clean-up efforts continue in the State of Queensland in the aftermath of cyclone Debbie and floods wreak havoc on the communities in Northern New South Wales, Grant took the opportunity to show his appreciation to responders of the disaster.
"I want to thank our emergency services personnel and volunteers for their tireless work to protect life and property, and urge the community to remain vigilant," Grant said.