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Daly River residents airlifted from Northern Territory community as floodwaters rise, Darwin dam spills

Tuesday January 30, 2018 - 20:51 EDT
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Helicopters are taking off and landing in Batchelor to evacuate residents from Daly River. - ABC

Two dozen helicopters have been used to evacuate more than 300 residents from the flood-affected Daly River community in the Northern Territory, while Darwin River Dam has started to spill, prompting warnings to nearby residents.



Residents began arriving at the evacuation centre in Darwin's showgrounds late on Monday night when a major flood warning was issued.

About 380 people have been forced to leave their homes, with some leaving in the previous days before roads around the community were inaccessible.

Twenty-three helicopters were flown between the flooded community and the nearby town of Batchelor to move 343 residents.



Families carrying the barest of essentials then boarded 10 buses, which took them up the Stuart Highway to Darwin.

An evacuation centre has been set up at the Foskey Pavilion, and most people have chosen to remain there for the time being, NT Police said.

"There'll be multiple helicopters used so that we can try and do this as efficiently and effectively today with no need to continue the evacuation tomorrow — that is our intent," Northern Territory Police commander Travis Wurst said.

"Once the residents arrive at Foskey Pavilion… there are dedicated stakeholders who will manage that facility and ensure that all the residents are safe, comfortable and can manage them through the period they have to remain at Foskey, until they can return to their homes.



"Unfortunately we don't know how long that will be at this stage."

The town had been on standby to evacuate for several days as monsoonal rains battered the area.

The river reached major flood levels on Monday and was expected to remain there for some time, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Commander Wurst said emergency crews were wary of crocodiles moving into the area.



"The water has risen rapidly and [there is a risk of] crocodiles, but it's just the mere fact that the water is slowly encroaching on the community," he said.

"So it's incumbent on us to get everyone out as quickly as we can. The safety of the residents is our priority at this point."

The Daly River was at 14.58 metres at 4:10pm on Tuesday afternoon and was remaining steady.

Meanwhile, at Adelaide River, water levels were at 10.81 metres and falling, and a minor flood warning remained in place for the township.

The Katherine River was 12.35 metres and rising, with a minor flood warning in place for the river at Gorge Road; no flooding was expected in town, police said.

Darwin River Dam spills

Residents in Darwin's rural area were warned to sandbag homes and prepare for possible flash flooding as Darwin River Dam reached capacity and started to spill.

Darwin and its rural area have been , causing flooding and smashing rainfall records.





Berry Springs resident Matt decided to make the most of being cut off by flooded roadways and took his two sons fishing on the spillway.

"[I thought] why not — no work and no school today, so gotta do something to keep occupied," he said.

"Hoping to get a few fish for the kids."

Power and Water said spilling from the dam was normal and had frequently occurred during previous wet seasons.

The dam is designed to overflow to reduce pressure on its wall, but during an overflow river levels downstream may rise rapidly and suddenly change water levels at road crossings.

The rain and high tides have forced floodwaters over the bridge at Berry Creek, closing Cox Peninsula Road to commuters for the third morning in a row.



Rapid Creek residents urged to prepare for flooding

In Darwin, Rapid Creek residents were told sandbags would be available for collection from the Rapid Creek shops between 3:00pm and 6:00pm on Monday.

An emergency alert was distributed overnight, warning residents of potential flooding.

"We're on alert in this kind of weather, more rainfall coinciding with the high tide could create that situation again," NT Emergency Services chief officer Jason Collins said.

"With Rapid Creek, it's a very small catchment area that leads into the creek itself, [so] we have very short lead times [to respond], usually 30 minutes."

Mr Collins said residents should pay attention to the weather conditions and ensure they have a plan in place in the event of flooding.

"You can also create your own sandbags if there is flooding by using pillow cases or shopping bags filled with sand, and place them around doorways to protect your home," Northern Territory Emergency Service regional manager Mark Cunnington said.



Elsewhere, a moderate flood warning is in place for the Adelaide River, a minor warning for the Katherine River and the North West and Bonaparte Coastal Rivers remain on a flood watch.

A severe weather warning for heavy rainfall and damaging winds has been issued for the Daly, Tiwi and parts of Arnhem and Gregory districts, which may lead to flash flooding.

It will affect residents in Darwin, Wadeye, Wurrumiyanga, Nauiyu, Nhulunbuy, Adelaide River, Jabiru, Milikapiti, Timber Creek and Pirlangimpi.

In Darwin, 147 millimetres of rainfall has fallen at Stokes Hill since 9:00am on Monday.

An active monsoon trough has brought heavy rainfall and squally showers to the Top End for more than a week, , power blackouts, and



Rise in potentially fatal melioidosis

There has also been a rise in cases of the potentially deadly soil-borne disease melioidosis the Northern Territory Centre for Disease Control (CDC) warned.

"Cuts and sores are the perfect entry point for the bacteria to invade the body but it can also be inhaled if it's stirred up by the wind," CDC director Dr Vicki Krause.

"Melioidosis infection can lead to severe pneumonia and blood poisoning and 10-15 per cent of infections are fatal, even with the best medical care."

The disease most commonly causes symptoms similar to pneumonia including unexplained fever, cough and shortness of breath.



Sixteen case were reported since October, nine of those in the past two weeks.

There are usually 35 to 70 reported cases in the NT each year, said Dr Krause.

"If you have cuts that don't heal, you should make sure that you go along and get them looked at, especially anything that doesn't heal within a two-week period," she said.

People most at risk of developing melioidosis have an underlying condition that impairs the immune system, such as diabetes, heavy drinking, cancer and cancer treatment, old age, and kidney or lung disease.


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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