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Town overcomes setbacks to welcome Wujul Wujul flood evacuees

Laine Clark -

Beds may have been scarce, supermarket shelves bare and the water supply "dwindling".

But the far north Queensland town of Cooktown still opened its arms to people fleeing floodwaters at Aboriginal community Wujal Wujal.

Two Australian Defence Force Chinook helicopters have relocated about 200 people over two days after Wujal Wujal was devastated by flooding caused by ex-tropical cyclone Jasper.

The highway near Cooktown has been badly damaged, isolating dozens of communities. (Image: HANDOUT/QUEENSLAND POLICE SERVICE)

Cooktown threw out the welcome mat despite being hit by record rainfall.

At one stage the town copped almost 340mm in 24 hours, eclipsing the previous December daily record mark of 195mm set way back in 1907.

The water treatment plant went under along with road access, sparking concerns for food supplies.

Cooktown was also forced to scramble for bedding before hundreds arrived from Wujal Wujal.

Yet the town did not think twice about opening up their PCYC as an evacuation centre.

"We have opened our arms to the Wujal Wujal people. We are saying, 'You are part of our Cape family - welcome'," Cook Shire Mayor Peter Scott told AAP on Thursday.

About 100 people arrived on Wednesday, a day after 97 were flown in from the Aboriginal community.

A number of dialysis patients were transported to nearby hospitals but the remainder have bunkered down in Cooktown which now has a fully stocked supermarket.

"We were getting low but three trucks were able to get through from down Cairns way - the shelves are full again," Mr Scott said.

The bedding dilemma has also been solved with 200 brand new mattresses and sleeping bags sourced from a Mossman shelter.

However the water supply is still a "bit iffy".

There are hopes the water treatment plant will be up and running again on Thursday but there are nearby bore fields as back-up.

Cooktown was cut off for up to three months every wet season until recent years. (HANDOUT/QUEENSLAND POLICE SERVICE)

In the meantime, Cooktown is on water restrictions.

"That (bore) water is okay to drink, it just doesn't look as nice," Mr Scott said.

"The good treated water is in a high level reservoir and it is dwindling down.

"We are trying to make the good stuff last as long as we can."

Cooktown's generosity has not gone unnoticed.

"The warm reception that was provided to those evacuees ... in Cooktown has been outstanding," Queensland Police's Deputy Commissioner Shane Chelepy said.

Mr Scott wasn't surprised when Cooktown rose to the occasion.

The town didn't have a sealed road to Cairns until about 13 years ago and as a result, it would be cut off for up to three months every wet season.

It taught them to not only fend for themselves, but also look out for each other.

"It's the far northern spirit. We are used to being in disaster mode," Mr Scott said.

"There is a traditional resilience, a pragmatic approach to getting things done.

"But we also help each other out. It is really shining through again in the community now - I am extremely proud."

Laine Clark - AAP


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