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Northern Territory man found after flood search, schools close as Top End monsoon continues to break rain records

Wednesday January 31, 2018 - 17:51 EDT
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Parts of the Top End inundated by floodwaters - ABC

A 62-year-old man feared missing in floodwaters at the remote community of Palumpa in the Northern Territory has been found safe and well, while rainfall records have been broken in the Top End.



The man had not been seen for a week after he told a friend he was planning to cycle 20 kilometres to an outstation, and a search operation was launched on Tuesday after the man's friend raised the alarm.

"We have located that man safe and well," Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said.

"It's a pleasing result and good work from the community, and in particular our staff and other people who have helped in locating the gentleman."

The Commissioner did not have further details about the circumstances that led to the man being found.

He said police were unhappy that drivers have been taking risks in floodwaters.

"One of the things that we were a little bit disappointed about [was] the number of drivers that we've had to rescue," Commissioner Kershaw said.

"Some of those vehicles will be irrecoverable and there's some real concern [that] some of those incidents were near-misses for those members of the public, again taking risks they didn't need to."

Police renewed their warnings to anyone attempting to navigate flooded roadways or waterways.

"You should avoid driving into water of unknown depth and current, and we would recommend that everyone stays away from flooded streams, rivers and waterways," Duty Superintendent Rob Farmer said.



Monsoon 'came in with a vengeance': BOM

The Top End's monsoon may have been one of the latest on record, but it has made up for it by being one of the wettest.

After 12 days of heavy rain, damaging winds, and flooding across Northern Territory, Bureau of Meteorology spokesman Greg Browning said it had been an extended, active period.

"The monsoon came in with a vengeance in the second half of January," he said.

"There's been dozens of sites that have seen their highest January rainfall on record, and being one of the wettest months of the year, that also means a lot of them will have had their highest monthly [rainfall] for all months."

He said that along with Top End locations such as Humpty Doo and Jabiru, "more obscure" sites like Yulara, near Uluru, also broke rainfall records.

"The monsoon onset was actually one of the latest we've had on record; it's actually the fourth-latest since 1957, which is when records really started," Mr Browning said.



The BOM said there had been less than one hour of sunlight in Darwin over the past week.

"It was quite an extended active monsoon period, in the last week there's been barely a glimpse of sunlight," Mr Browning said.

The Top End is now entering a monsoonal break period, which meant a return to normal wet season conditions of afternoon showers and storms, Mr Browning said.

"Because the first monsoon came in so late we might struggle to have any more than one more monsoon burst … [but] we certainly do expect to have another monsoon burst," he said.

The BOM still forecasts an average number of cyclones this season, which is two to three, so it is still expected one could form in Top End waters before April, he said.

Food supplies low, crocodile risk heightened

Food and water supplies are running low in the West Daly community of Palumpa, as flooding has cut off access to the road, as well as the airstrip.



"We go through this problem every year out here: the road becomes impassable and people get cut off and we run short of food, water, everything," West Daly Regional Councillor Steve Horton said.

"Emergency services can't come through unless they come by helicopter."

The community had its Telstra services restored yesterday after five days of outage, but mobile communication was still unavailable on Wednesday.

Mr Horton said some buildings and homes had flooded, the sewerage system was experiencing problems and the risk of crocodiles emerging in the town was heightened.

"The billabong comes up and when it does come up we do get crocodiles around town," Mr Horton said.

"One was sighted last night and we've have had the locals swimming in there. Council's been out giving them warnings that they shouldn't be in the water swimming, but I guess they're used to it."

Weather forces schools to close

A number of Top End schools were closed this morning until further notice, due to the recent downpours which have closed a number of roads across the top of the Territory.

In the Daly River region, Adelaide River School and Woolaning School will be closed today, as will Kiana School and Lajamanu School, in the Katherine region.

Nganambala School, Nganmarriyanga School, Peppimenarti School and Woolianna School will be closed until further notice.

The Department of Education and the Catholic Education Office will coordinate the delivery of education services to all students evacuated from Daly River to Darwin over the past 24 hours.



Daly River evacuees displaced for a week

Two dozen helicopters and 10 buses were used to over the past two days as floodwaters inundated the community.

The residents were airlifted to Batchelor before being transported to Darwin by bus, many carrying the barest of essentials, and it's likely they will stay at the evacuation centre for at least a week.

The Daly region has been declared an emergency zone and currently remains closed to the public.

That includes fishermen, despite February 1 usually marking the beginning of the barramundi fishing season in the Daly River Fish Management Zone.

Motorists are being urged to check road closures on the for the latest updates and advices regarding road conditions.



It's the second time in just over two years that residents have been forced to shelter at Darwin's Foskey Pavilion.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said improvements could be made to the evacuation centre.

Some changes had been made to the layout of the facility since the last evacuation, but more could be done, Mr Gunner said.

"Having been out here last night I do think just from my own eyes there are things that we can do to improve this facility potentially, or maybe talk about alternative locations," he said.

The advantage of the Foskey Pavilion was that it was available at this time of year, he said, and allowed for the easy distribution of essentials such as food.

"When you have a Darwin location like this it's really easy to manage all the logistical needs that come with having people housed out of home for three to four weeks in a flood situation," Mr Gunner said.



Nightcliff, Rapid Creek residents on standby

People in the Darwin suburbs of Nightcliff and Rapid Creek were warned the risk of flooding would remain for several more days.

Sandbags were handed out in the area and residents were told to have an emergency plan in place, with the possibility that floodwaters could rise quickly with more heavy rain and very high tides expected this week.

NT Emergency Services director Jason Collins said his crews were checking water levels every 30 minutes.

"With Rapid Creek, it's a very small catchment area that leads into the creek itself, so we have very short lead times, up to usually 30 minutes, so in those situations we tend to err on the side of caution when issuing alerts," Mr Collins said.

Minor flood warnings are in place for the Adelaide, McArthur and Katherine Rivers, and a flood watch for the North West and Bonaparte Coastal Rivers.


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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