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Defence Force and SES use drones, unmanned boats to resupply flood-hit Wytaliba

By Caitlin Furlong, Monday February 17, 2020 - 14:46 EDT
ABC licensed image
The swollen Mann River has stranded Wytaliba yet again. - ABC licensed

The tiny village of Wytaliba, sandwiched between the New South Wales Northern Tablelands and North Coast, is no stranger to being cut off.

The remote community had its only access bridge across the Mann River destroyed in .

Now, access to a temporary bridge has been cut by heavy rain, leaving the community stranded for the second time in less than four months.

"Every day brings something new, another challenge," said Carol Sparks, a Wytaliba local and Mayor of Glen Innes Severn Council.

"We're doing our best to keep on top of it, to remain calm in these situations, but it's quite a trying time for everybody."

State Emergency Service and Defence Force crews have joined to rebuild the temporary bridge and get much-needed supplies into the community.

New England SES Division Commander Katrina Miegel said the operation was not without risk.

"The water was quite fast-flowing, and underneath the water was the building construction, so it was very dangerous," she said.

"We planned to use an unmanned raft all along because we didn't know what might happen out there on the water."

A drone flew equipment over the river so locals could set up an anchor, then a tension line was established so an unmanned boat could transfer more supplies.

"Each time that we took the drone over and dropped something else off and it all worked, there were a few tears on both sides of the bank," Ms Miegel said.

Locals can now use a raft attached to a rope to bring supplies in and out of the community.

It's not just food, nappies, toilet paper and formula that are coming in; food for a large number of native animals injured in the bushfire is also needed.

The Defence Force has set up a camp at nearby Glen Innes, where around 100 personnel are on hand to help with the bushfire clean-up effort.

Ms Miegel said the resupply operation would not have happened without the ADF.

"If we didn't have each other, we wouldn't have been able to achieve what we did," she said.

The council's director of infrastructure services, Keith Appleby, said the military's presence had given the community a boost.

"I know time is passing slowly for the residents who have been impacted, but I know it's very heart-lifting for them to see the support of the wider community being brought in to help."


© ABC 2020

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