Residents of two major towns in Western Australia have been warned that their communities are turning into islands amid the state’s worst flooding on record.
After a swollen Fitzroy River devastated the town of Fitzroy Crossing earlier this week, a 50km wide inland sea is pushing towards the Kimberley coast.
Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson warned that residents would be stranded by the floods.
Dawson told reporters on January 6: “Don’t be delusional. Derby will be an island in a few days. It will be cut off.”
“The weather and water are close to that, so maybe Broome and the Derby will be quarantined.
“This is just the beginning and it will take many days.”
A massive flood peak, reaching a record 15.81 m at Fitzroy Crossing on January 4th, slammed into the small indigenous community of Noonkamba, 280 km east of Broome, on January 6th.
“The water flows faster and the water level rises rapidly,” says Dawson.
“This emergency is still ongoing. This is the worst flood disaster in the state’s history.”
Looma and Willare were also flooded, and dozens of other areas were isolated. The total rainfall for 7 days reached up to 600 mm over the whole region.
A large-scale operation involving the Australian Defense Force is underway, and emergency workers continue to rescue residents to ensure supplies reach cut-off communities and idyllic stations.
A 400 km section of the Great Northern Highway south of Broome has been closed and a 500 km portion of the same freight route between Willea and Halls Creek remains closed.
Authorities say further assistance from the Australian Defense Force (ADF) may be required and damage to roads and bridges means it will be months, if not months, before the only road transport link to the north of the state is reopened. He said it could take several weeks.
The unprecedented flooding was caused by Tropical Storm Erie about 300 km southeast of Broome on the afternoon of January 6.
The slow-moving weather system began moving southeast on 6 January and is expected to weaken over the weekend as it moves further inland toward the Northern Territory.
People in the area have been warned of the potential for isolated rainfall of up to 60mm as the system moves out of the area.
Meanwhile, heavy flooding continues in the western NSW town of Menindee, with the Darling River expected to break its 1976 record of 10.47 meters in the next few days.
The agency expects the channel to reach 10.5 meters, but warns it could rise to 10.7 meters.