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Area bigger than Victoria isolated in Kimberley after floods leave highway underwater

Emily Jane Smith, Friday February 2, 2018 - 09:15 EDT
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Roebuck is beginning to look more like an inland ocean than a floodplain. - ABC

An area twice the size of Victoria has been cut off in Western Australia's Kimberley region after a severe storm decimated the only highway servicing the region.

The Kimberley received record rainfall in January, including , flooding the Great Northern Highway and sweeping away bitumen.

"This is the worst I've seen it. I've been working in the Kimberley since the year 2000," Main Roads roadworks manager Frank Morgan said.

"The water has got underneath the bitumen and has eaten away at the gravel."

About 100km of the road between Broome and Derby has been damaged, with another 12km still underwater near Roebuck Plains south of Broome.

The most significant damage is at Logue River near Willare, where water engulfed the bridge, washing away the road and the railing.

"It's eaten out the shoulder and the embankment of the road," Mr Morgan said.

The Great Northern Highway is the only road connecting the Kimberley to the rest of Western Australia.

It has been closed since Monday and Main Roads expects the road will not be open until Saturday morning, leaving residents and workers unable to enter or leave the Kimberley.

Mains Roads has begun making temporary repairs so traffic can pass.

Truckies stranded for days

As the severe storm swept through the west Kimberley on Monday, truck drivers became stranded at roadhouses.

Bill Traval works for CTI Logistics and was dropping a shipment of goods in Broome when the rain hit.

"I'm in my 60s and I've never seen so much water fall out of the sky in 24 hours," he said.

"I've been trucking up here for 40-odd years and I've never seen a storm come through like this."

Mr Traval has been waiting at Roebuck Roadhouse, 30km outside of Broome, since Sunday, hoping to return to his family in Perth.

"I've just got to sit here and wait," he said.

Fresh food running low

Supermarkets across the Kimberley are running low on fresh food because trucks transporting goods are unable to service the region.

Anne Slowiak manages the IGA in Derby and said it would run out of fruit and vegetables by Friday night.

"We were due for a truck [Thursday] but it won't be able to get in," she said.

"I think everybody is taking it a day at a time, and at least by Sunday we'll have a truck get in."

The only way out is to fly

Ms Slowiak said the biggest problem was people who had flights to Perth.

With the road between Broome and Derby closed, residents and visitors are unable to access flights to Perth from Broome.

Ms Slowiak has a sick daughter in Perth receiving an operation.

The only way she could get there in time was to jump on a chartered flight organised by people from the community.

"I'm sure there are others too who really need to get to places," she said.

Henry John was stuck in Broome and was looking to charter a plane to get back to Derby.

He said it would cost about $250 for the 40-minute flight.

"I want to get back home and back to work."


© ABC 2018

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