The remote community of Gascoyne Junction, 170km east of Carnarvon, has been evacuated due to health fears caused by severe flooding. The water supply to the small community has, ironically, been cut due to flood damage. With temperatures set to soar into the high 30s, there are health fears associated with flooded sceptic tanks and mosquitoes.
At least 20 people from the community will be evacuated today and more could leave in coming days. Call for urgent Gascoyne flood work. Residents in and around the town of Carnarvon are facing a huge clean-up after the floods hit over the weekend.
Reinforced levees prevented the overflowing Gascoyne River from swamping the town, but surrounding plantations and pastoral stations have lost millions of dollars in crops and livestock. The evacuation centre in Carnarvon is holding around 150 people and planes, and helicopters are being used to drop emergency supplies to outlying Aboriginal communities and pastoral stations. As flood waters recede in the Gascoyne region, which has been declared a natural disaster zone, growers and station owners are returning to their properties to find devastated crops and dead cattle.
Tourists warned to avoid Carnarvon floods
Tourists travelling to the Gascoyne and Pilbara, including Coral Bay, Exmouth and Karratha, over the festive season need to plan ahead because of flooding in Carnarvon. North West Coastal Highway remains closed from the Shark Bay turn-off to Minilya Roadhouse after the devastating Carnarvon floods. At 9.30am, a 7km stretch of the highway remained under up to a metre of water and Main Roads WA says an initial assessment indicates parts of the road surface north and south of Carnarvon has been washed away.
More detailed assessments will be carried out as the water recedes. Main Roads said road repair crews were being assembled and arrangements were being made to get earthmoving equipment into the area. The small community of Gascoyne Junction will be evacuated today to the Relocation centre in the town of Carnarvon. People travelling to Coral Bay, Exmouth or Karratha face long detours and will need to take the Great Northern Highway towards Newman before heading west. There is access on the North West Coastal Highway as far as Denham and Monkey Mia, however people planning to travel to Carnarvon should delay their trip until further notice.
FESA Regional Director Grant Pipe said travellers heading to the Gascoyne and Pilbara regions needed to ensure they know how they would get to their destination safely. It is extremely important that people are prepared before they set off as their travel time will have increased significantly,Mr Pipe said. In affected areas people need to approach all floodways with extreme caution, obey road closure signs, be aware of road conditions and do not drive into water of unknown depth and current.
The following roads are closed to all traffic until further notice: North West Coastal Highway from the Shark Bay turn off through to Minilya Roadhouse; Robinson Street in Carnarvon townsite from the North West Coastal Highway through to the Boundary Road intersection. The remainder of the network in the Gascoyne region is currently open however it is subject to flash flooding. Mr Pipe said people should carry plenty of water, tell someone their travel plans and know where they would be refuelling.
Travellers should organise an emergency kit including a first aid kit, portable battery operated radio, waterproof torch, new spare batteries and essential medicines. They should also identify where the local authorities are and keep their contact details handy, he said.
For further road closure information visit www.mainroads.wa.gov.au or contact Main Roads on 138 138.
For the latest weather information visit www.bom.gov.au or call 1300 659 210 , and listen to the radio for regular weather updates.
Carnarvon residents barely recognise their country
Meanwhile residents devastated by the worst flood on record in the Gascoyne region say they barely recognise their own country as they return home to begin the clean-up. Reinforced levees prevented the overflowing Gascoyne River from swamping the town of Carnarvon but surrounding plantations and pastoral stations have been hammered with livestock and crop losses. At 1pm on Tuesday, the river level was down to 3.6 metres at Nine Mile Bridge after peaking at 7.8m early on Monday, WA’s Bureau of Meteorology reported.
Shire president Dudley Maslen said a few residents had begun to return to their homes but would likely be without power through Tuesday. “There’s been a lot of damage and everyone is devastated,” Mr Maslen said. “Some people have said to me that they don’t even recognise their own country because there are rivers where there never used to be. Mr Maslen said the morale within the community was good but everyone was dealing with stress differently. “Everyone was going through the adrenalin rush that you needed for survival and now we’ve got the hangover,” he said.
Carnarvon, about 900km north of Perth, received its annual rainfall in 22 hours over the weekend. Some people in outlying areas were rescued by helicopter after sitting it out on rooftops, while a caravan park in Carnarvon was evacuated after it was swamped late on Sunday. About 150 people are now staying at Carnarvon’s civic centre, which has been designated an evacuation centre.
Fire and Emergency Services Authority spokesman Les Hayter said five planes had delivered food and water supplies to the region today and more flights were planned for tomorrow. “Those flights will probably continue for a few days because the roads are still impassable,” Mr Hayter said. “We’ve also now been in touch with most of the stations that we couldn’t reach before, so we’re quite happy with that.”
On Monday, the WA government declared the area a disaster zone, making residents and local authorities eligible for financial assistance for clean-up and recovery. The federal government has also pledged funds to help flood victims and assist local authorities to replace damaged public infrastructure. Local growers of mangoes, melons, bananas and other fruits have been hard hit by the floods along with riverside cattle stations that look to have lost many hundreds of livestock.
It’s feared many of the region’s historic mud-brick pastoral homesteads could have been irreparably damaged after going under water.