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Flood emergency declared as Fitzroy Valley hit by flooding

Giovanni Torre -

UPDATE: A flood emergency has been declared in the Kimberley

Communities in Fitzroy Valley, in Western Australia's north, are concerned about food, power and other vital supplies as floods swamp the area.

On Tuesday afternoon Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson declared an emergency flood situation in the Kimberley region.

"This declaration applies to the shires of Broome and Derby West Kimberley. Record major flooding has already occurred at Fitzrouy Crossing, reading 15.3metres at midday today," he said.

"Since the start of the weekend rain fall of 200 to 500mm has been recorded across the Kimberley. Further widespread heavy rain is forecast for the next few days.

"If the road is flooded, forget it - don't drive through flood waters it is incredibly dangerous. The Great Northern Highway is closed between the intersecton with Derby Highway and Halls Creek."

Mr Dawson said the Fitzroy River Bridge at Fitzroy Crossing has sustained damage when flood waters breached the deck but it was impossible to determine the extent of the damage at this stage.

"Ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie currently lies west of Hall Creek and is expected to move slowly westward and be centred just east of Broome early tomorrow (Wednesda)."

The Minister thanked emergency services personnel who said said "are doing an amazing job".

"They already completed a number of flood rescues for people in Fitzroy Crossing. There have been 18 requests for assistance since Monday afternoon including from people stranded by floodwater."

Mr Dawson said WA Country Health Services and the Royal Flying Doctors coordinated the transfer of six renal patients to Broome for dialysis.

"Further rescues are being completed in Fitzroy Crossing... and people are being relocated to the evacuation centre."

Flooding in Fitzroy Crossing on Monday night.

Earlier on Tuesday (as reported in an earlier version of this story) Fitzroy Crossing businessperson and community leader Patrick Green told National Indigenous Times he had spoken with MPs about the crisis on the ground.

"I just got off the phone from an MP and that mob have had a briefing and intend to come up here by the end of the week. I said 'did you discuss declaring a state of emergency for Fitzroy?'

"The Aboriginal people here do not feel like they are being heard. They are asking 'what is happening?' in terms of the emergency response."

Mr Green said he appreciates DFES is working on the emergency response, "but in regards to people being able to get food and look after themselves they feel like they are being left behind".

"Marra Worra Worra (resource centre in Fitzroy Crossing) is saying we will have to give out food. People can't get in to buy it. Even the supermarket is almost under water.

"All these ministers and politicians are getting briefings and they think 'great, things are being done' but on the ground we see more rain is coming before the services are coming," he said.

Security footage at a Fitzroy Crossing bar.

Mr Green said he understood DFES was operating out of Broome.

"How long does that take when they have known about the floods for a long time? They have forecasts, they know what is due," he said.

"I can't believe there are all these oil rig choppers in Broome, surely one or two of them could be available. If they are not available, where is the army? There is Curtin Air Base; why can't that be used?"

Patsy Bedford of the Kimberley Language Resource Centre spoke with the National Indigenous Times from Junjuwa community in the Valley.

"There is a hall in town that has just opened up now for relief, for people from the communities coming in by boat," she said.

"In our community Junjuwa at the moment we are worried about power, the underground power lines may be affected and shut down. We are very isolated.

"The roads we have been using to get into town for shopping, the conditions of those roads are very bad. The local people at the moment are using their own boats."

Fitzroy Crossing.

Ms Bedford said one of her granddaughters and one of her grandsons were using their own boat the bring people into town to get food and other supplies.

"We have been told once we come across from our community, we should not go back to it again," she said.

"We have seen two SES boats. They tell us not to go back, but we do have families there, we have to get back.

"A couple of houses near the highway already have water going through them and the people living there have moved to family members' homes that are on higher ground.

"We still have people here in Junjuwa. We have very poor communications… We will be without reception."

A car being towed out of a flood area in Fitzroy Crossing.

Ms Bedford said she was concerned people in the communities outside of town did not have access to reliable communications.

"When we have asked how we can get services to the communities here we are told people have to ring SES. Not all people have phones, communications are bad, not all people are on Facebook to see the notices coming out," she said.

"We have learned the local IGA is now closed. We are trying to support ourselves.

"The thing that should have happened in regards to SES and the service delivers in the town knew this was coming a week or so in advance, and should have notified the communities."

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