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WA floods: Homes evacuated in Fitzroy Crossing as aerial food drops made to isolated communities

Ben Collins, Friday February 17, 2017 - 23:01 EDT
ABC licensed image
The swollen Fitzroy River spreads across floodplains around the town of Fitzroy Crossing. - ABC licensed

Aerial food drops and the evacuation of low-lying houses are underway as the Kimberley's Fitzroy River approaches major flooding levels.

The river, which spans much of the Kimberley district of north western Australia, has sat at minor flooding levels regularly since .

But the latest drenching from the monsoonal trough sitting over the region has pushed the Fitzroy River close to major flooding levels, the Department of Emergency Services' Murray Hatten says.

"The met bureau tell us that it's likely to push towards major [flooding]," he said.

Low-lying houses in the town of Fitzroy Crossing have been evacuated as floodwater from upstream heads down the river, even as rainclouds clear.

"It looks like we're going to get a bit of respite in the weather in the days to come, but given that the river catchments are so wet, we've still got a significant water flow to come down the Fitzroy [River]," Mr Hatten said.

"It's going to cause some minor inundation, certainly through some of the low-lying housing areas of Fitzroy [Crossing]."

On the outskirts of Fitzroy Crossing, Geoff Davis moved his vehicles to higher ground and was keeping a close eye on the river which is just 15 centimetres below the top of the river bank.

Despite the impending flood, Mr Davis believed the lack of water in the Margaret River, the Fitzroy River's major tributary, would help avoid a major impact.

"Our feet aren't wet yet because the backup water from the Margaret [River] isn't there," he said.

But the flooding had proven high enough to cut access to town.

"We're about to go and have a look and see whether the kids can get to school or not," Mr Davis said.

Food levels running low

After months of unusually persistent rainfall, emergency services are now having to coordinate aerial food drops to remote pastoral stations and Aboriginal communities.

"Many of our significant Aboriginal communities have been isolated for quite some time," Mr Hatten said.

"What that's meant for us is there's quite a significant resupply operation happening now from as far afield as Kandiwal community up near the Mitchell Plateau, through to Balgo and Bililuna."

Further down the Fitzroy River, Pam Daniell has been isolated on her flooded cattle property called Myroodah Station, and is feeling the pinch.

"We've been isolated here by road since before Christmas. We're not starving but it's the fresh veg that you run out of first," she said.

Despite the challenges, Ms Daniell described the record rainfall as "beautiful".

"We've never seen a wet season like this, there are lakes on the property we never knew existed" she said.

"We've just had amazing rain, we've nearly hit 1,000mm for the wet which is impressive because our average rainfall for this country is 500mm."

She was expecting an aerial food drop on Friday, and said it was not just the humans that would be happy to see fresh supplies.

"Our chooks are a little short on tucker, so they're even bringing some chook food for them, and some mail which will be great," Ms Daniell said.

Emergency services implore caution

Mr Hatten said the lower reaches of the Fitzroy River were not forecast to be hit as hard as the flooding heads downstream.

"The latest information we have indicates that minor flooding only is expected in those areas, so some good news from that perspective," he said.

While most homes in the Kimberley were expected to be safe in this latest round of flooding, emergency services were again emphasising the dangers from people trying to cross flooded roads in cars — which has already led to this year.

"I implore the travelling public, if in doubt, stay out. Do not enter floodways, it is deadly, it's certainly proven very much the case this year," Mr Hatten said.


© ABC 2017

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