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Emergency airdrops, 300 stranded and campers evacuated as wild weather isolates Bellbrook

By Melissa Martin and Kerrin Thomas, Thursday January 7, 2021 - 08:49 EDT
ABC licensed image
It is expected to be at least a week before the landslip at Devil's Nook on Armidale Road is cleared and made safe. - ABC licensed

Emergency food drops and evacuations have been carried out in the Macleay Valley, on the New South Wales Mid North Coast, where a landslip, coupled with days of heavy rainfall have isolated around 300 people.

The State Emergency Service evacuated 12 people on Monday who had been camping on a property at Toorumbee Creek, near Bellbrook.

"They needed groceries and medical supplies and that kind of thing," SES spokesperson Jenny Funari said.

Supplies arriving by air

The SES also made emergency food drops to those isolated by flooded roadways and a large landslip on Armidale Road at Devils Nook.

The operation will continue in coming days, with the SES saying people need to arrange their own orders of food and medicines for the airdrop.

"Then the Kempsey SES unit will pick up those groceries or the chemist order up on your behalf and they then take them to the airport, onto the helicopter and the helicopter will come into Bellbrook and resupply," Ms Funari said.

"We're intending to do that on every second day."

Isolation for days to come

The landslip covering Armidale Road is expected to take a week to clear.

Kempsey Shire Council General Manager Craig Milburn said the landslip poses a significant challenge.

"We have started with the specialist Geotech and we will need to get some specialists arborists in who can actually clear trees by a rope," he said.

"There's some trees right at the top edge of the landslip that will need to be felled, there's also a significant tree halfway down that's fallen and is laying horizontal against another tree and both of those will need to be taken out and then we need to work out how to remove the rubble."

Mr Milburn said the rubble itself will require significant risk assessments before it us moved.

"There's a large lot of loose rubble at the top half of the slip, which if we start to clear from below could cause significant issues as well," he said.

The council is also doing reconnaissance work on flooded roads in the area to see if alternate routes are viable.

Landslips have also affected the road to the west of Bellbrook and repair works are underway but provisions have been put in place to provide limited access for residents and emergency vehicles outside of work hours and at a number of windows during the day, with a 4.3 tonne load limit.

Locals well versed in isolation

Locals are accustomed to being isolated, with rain and storms often leaving their access routes closed by floodwaters.

Arthur Bain said he keeps enough supplies on hand to survive for a month.

"I generally keep a good supply of rice, some tinned food and toilet paper, I've got meat in the freezer and veggies in the garden," he said.

"You know, we're pretty resilient out here."

Mr Bain said the main concern for locals is getting medical supplies, which will now be airdropped by the SES.

He said the biggest problem is for those who have been isolated away from home.

"I'm glad that I'm on this side of the slip and I know that some people are stuck in town or where they haven't got money, they haven't got resources and they just want to be at home," he said.


© ABC 2021

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