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From Sewage To Animal Carcasses, Why Swimming In Floodwater Is Dangerous And Disgusting

A dire warning has been issued urging people not to enter floodwaters or risk swimming with a number of nasties including dead animals and bacteria.

After a significant weather event, social media often explodes with images and videos of destruction, devastation or sheer delight. This week's east coast downpour offered a fertile environment for floodwater footage --but there was also a small collection of people using it for (ill-advised) recreational fun.

And with more rain forecast for later in the week, emergency services are urging people stay clear.

NSW SES spokesperson David Webber said there are countless reasons people should think twice before playing in floodwaters.

Speaking to 10 daily, Webber said not only could there be an entire range of debris floating in the water, but what's lurking underneath is cause for significant concern.

"Floodwater can also erode surfaces and we don't know what's at the bottom," he said.

"This could include sink holes. I've seen floodwater peel back an entire road."

In terms of debris, he said there could be a whole collection of nasties in floodwater,  including dead animal carcasses -- both native wildlife and domestic -- branches, petrol, sewage and household items.

"Things that have washed away from peoples homes like household cleaners, pesticides and anything stored under the property could be swept into floodwaters," Webber said.

"[The dangers go beyond] the depth and velocity of it."

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He acknowledges Australians are a water-loving people, but when it comes to floodwaters we should keep our distance or risk seriously injury or illness.

"Never drive, ride, walk or enter floodwater, you just never know what's in it," Webber said.

He is also encouraging people not to go near the water if they have open wounds due to heightened risk of bacterial infection.

The warning comes after families have been spotted surfing or swimming in the potentially toxic, hazardous floodwaters, including a Sydney mother who filmed her two young sons surfing in the storm surge at Narrabeen in the city's north.

A NSW Health spokesperson told 10 daily floodwaters could be home to a host of viruses, bacteria and parasites.

"While the risk of infection from contact with floodwater is generally low, it's important to stay away from flood-affected areas and avoid unnecessary contact," the spokesperson said.

The state's health department is encouraging people who are coming into contact with floodwater to keep their feet covered, wear clothes, and to wash their hands thoroughly with soap.

A group of boys directs traffic through floodwater at Tempe in Sydney. Image: AAP

"If you cut yourself on something that has been contaminated with floodwater, check with your GP about your tetanus vaccinations," the spokesperson said.

And if you find yourself swept away in floodwaters, the  best thing to do is keep calm.

Queensland's Fire and Emergency Services acting manager for technical rescue, John Roache, told 10 daily if you find yourself in strife to apply a "defensive swimming action".

This means laying on your back with your feet up and head pointing upstream.

He said the most important thing is keeping your feet as close to the surface as possible.

"The biggest issue with water in an urban environment is what's hidden underneath," Roache said, echoing Webber's comments.

"We call those [branches and other debris] 'strainers' and it can be easy to get caught on them."

The majority of the call-outs he receives are from people who are trapped inside their vehicles after trying to drive through floodwaters.

Now, Roache is urging motorists to "back it up".

"The main thing to remember is to keep calm so you can make informed decisions," he explained.

He said drivers and passengers should remove their seat belts, wind down the windows, phone 000, and climb on the roof of the vehicle if they can.

The Condamine river floods a road near Dalby, Queensland. Image: AAP

"It's such an unpredictable environment," Roache said.

"If you're driving up to floodwater, back it up. We want you to arrive home to your family, even if it's not that day, it can be another day."

He is also urging parents to keep an eye on their kids and know their whereabouts, as playing in floodwaters can be tempting.

Contact the author: elyons@networkten.com.au