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Northern Territory floods: Main highway cut as croc warning issued for population centres

By Katherine Gregory, wires, Tuesday December 29, 2015 - 01:27 EDT
ABC licensed image
A tropical low has dumped 600 millimetres of rain in some parts of the Northern Territory, causing major flooding. - ABC licensed

Flooding has forced the closure of the Stuart Highway until Tuesday morning, as authorities warn crocodiles could lurk in floodwaters near townships.

At a press conference on Monday afternoon, NT Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said the Territory's main highway had been cut by floodwaters, about 360 kilometres south of Darwin, and would remain so until Tuesday morning.

"As at 4:00PM today, the Stuart Highway between Mataranka and Elliot is closed due to ... rainfall in the region," he said.



Commissioner Kershaw said a road train had become bogged in the region and "attempts [were] being made to recover the vehicle".

"Traffic will be stopped at both ends south of Elliot and also from the Roper River Highway towards the Mataranka area, so we urge motorists not to use the Stuart Highway between the hours of 4:00pm and 6:00am."

The maximum penalty for driving on a closed road is $15,300.

Commissioner Kershaw said police held grave concerns for a 28-year-old man missing in floodwaters since Christmas Day.

He said the man's two friends managed to swim to safety after their car was swept away near a crossing at the south western community of Peppimenarti.



"According to the eyewitness accounts, his friends unfortunately saw him swept away in the waters and lost sight of him. We do hold grave concerns but we remain ever hopeful that we'll find him safe and well," Commissioner Kershaw said.

"We'll continue to search for as long as it takes to then reach a decision as to whether we continue or not continue."

Andrew Warton, director of NT Emergency Services, warned crocodiles were a threat with waters coming close to population centres.

"The Daly River is obviously populated by a large population of crocodiles and already we've seen reports of crocodiles sighted within the community," Director Warton said.

"Northern Territorians, particularly those in flood affected areas, [should] exercise extreme caution around swollen waterways and flooded rivers and in the metropolitan areas, of course.

"As it stands we have one deceased, one missing, an entire community evacuated and a river that's above major flood level. So this event, whilst the community is safe this event is not yet over."

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said the Barkly region, in the central eastern part of the Northern Territory, should brace for heavy rainfall over the next few days.

The tropical low, which has dumped up to 600 millimetres in some parts of the Top End and caused major flooding, is moving south-east, towards the Simpson Desert.

Rainfall is predicted to ease for the Top End, but the BoM said flood levels would remain high in the Daly River area, about 200 kilometres south of Darwin, where almost .

Alcohol ban, curfew at evacuation centre

Anne Bradford, head of the Department of Children and Families, said resources at the temporary accommodation at Darwin's Foskey's pavilion would need bolstering.

"Over the past 24 hours, volunteers across the Northern Territory have been assisting out at the Foskey's pavilion with the evacuation centre," Ms Bradford said.

"We are going to need additional people to support us.

Ms Bradford reiterated that alcohol was banned from the evacuation centre and that people needed to observe the curfew.

"The gates are closed at 10:00pm at night and all evacuees are aware of the requirements to be inside by that time," Ms Bradford said.

Woman drowned near Beswick

On Sunday, a 59-year-old after heavy rainfall associated with the tropical low cut roads.



The woman was pulled from the car trapped in flooded Dook Creek, near the community of Beswick, 100 kilometres east of Katherine.

Assistant Commissioner Jeanette Kerr said police saw the stranded car on Sunday evening while they were travelling to Beswick by helicopter.

"They discovered five occupants stranded in the vehicle," Assistant Commissioner Kerr said.

"And the woman had been unable to escape and drowned.

"CPR was conducted, but unfortunately they were unable to save her."

She said a coroner was investigating the woman's death and the other four people in the car were safe.

The Northern Territory Emergency Service advise people should:
Stay away from flooded drains, rivers, streams and waterways
Avoid driving into water of unknown depth and current
Stop children playing in or near floodwaters
Create your own sandbags if there is flooding, by using pillowcases and shopping bags filled with sand and place them around doorways to protect your home
Be careful of fallen power lines. They are dangerous and should always be treated as live


- ABC

© ABC 2015

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