Supply concerns as Kimberley floods block crucial food deliveries to WA region

WA’s Emergency Services Minister has conceded he is “frustrated” by the lack of supplies getting in to flood-affected areas of the Kimberley, as record water levels threaten homes and lives.

Stephen Dawson said emergency servivices were battling against “unprecedented” conditions to help affected residents in the remote Kimberley region, where more than 100 have been evacuated and dozens more have lost power.

Road trains, which are used to deliver food and supplies to the region, have been diverted due to the floodwaters. The Great Northern Highway between Broome and Darby was closed and earlier in the week, Broome International Airport grounded flights.

Shocking stories have emerged from the region, with one local telling The Guardianthe community were texting each other, looking for food, and families were emptying their pantries for neighbours and emergency food drops predicted to still be at least a day away.

“I understand the frustrations of people; I‘m frustrated too,” Mr Dawson told reporters in Broome, where he’d touched down earlier in the day on the first available flight.

“This weather event continues to go on, and has hampered our efforts to get people and supplies on the ground as quickly as we would have liked to.

“Work has been going on before Christmas, but what we‘ve seen with this ex-tropical cyclone is a weather system that is unprecedented.

“Fitzroy Crossing only got rain dumped on it once, but the ex-tropical cyclone went around, and around, and around, three times. This is something that‘s taken everyone by surprise, including the Bureau of Meteorology.”

Immediate concerns have shifted to communities downstream from Fitzroy Crossing, where floodwaters have slowly started to recede.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said 105 people have been relocated from Fitzroy Crossing so far, as well as 23 vulnerable persons in Noonkanbah — including a newborn baby.

“Two fixed-wing aircraft are dedicated to start resupply operations out of Broome, as soon as weather permits,” said Mr Klemm.

More than 500 food packs were flown in yesterday, with more to come over the weekend. Food is also being distributed with the help of The Marra Worra Worra Aboriginal Corporation.

Around 120 Horizon Power customers in Fitzroy Crossing, including the caravan park, have had their power switched off, with crews unable to repair network faults until floodwaters recede further.

Meanwhile, there’s been some positive stories coming out of the disaster.

Member for Kimberley Divina D’Anna said there’s been a good sense of community spirit and camaraderie among locals.

“There’s a lot of hard stories to hear as well,” said Ms D’Anna, “there’s a lot of people feeling the hurt and pain and the frustration.

“But there are some good people busting their guts to make sure everyone gets through to the other side.”

Some of those good people include a group who worked to save the Ngurrara Canvas.

Camera IconThe Ngurrara canvas was rescued by locals before it could be damaged by floodwaters. Source: National Museum Australia Credit: Supplied

Painted by senior traditional owners of the Great Sandy Desert, the 8x10m canvas was presented as evidence in a 1996 native title claim.

It was in danger of the rising floodwaters at Fitzroy Crossing, but a group of young locals rolled it up and carried to canvas to higher ground.

Widespread flood warnings remain in place across the Kimberley region. The most up-to-date information can be found here.

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