Australia – Hundreds Evacuate Floods in Northern Territory

Authorities in Australia’s Northern Territory have ordered the evacuation of communities in the Victoria Daly Region after persistent heavy rain caused rivers to overflow.

Flooding at Sandy Creek, NT, Australia, 01 March 2023. Photo: Victoria Daly Regional Council

Evacuations were ordered for residents of Daguragu, Kalkarindji, Pigeon Hole and Palumpa in the Victoria Daly Region of Northern Territory on 01 March 2023.

The upper Victoria River exceeded major flood levels after persistent heavy rain in the region. As of 01 March, the Victoria River at Kalkarindji stood at 16.99 metres, where the major flood stage is 14 metres.

Rain has been falling in the state for the past week, but intensified over the last few days. Kalkarindji recorded 134 mm of rain in 24 hours to 01 March and Lajamanu recorded 114 mm.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said, “Rainfall recorded in the Upper Victoria River catchment overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning has resulted in rapid river level rises and major flooding along the Victoria River at Kalkarindji.

“Further rainfall totals of 30 – 60 mm with possible isolated heavier falls are forecast for the remainder of Wednesday, which may prolong the river level peak.”

BoM added that levels of the Daly River are also high and that moderate flooding is occurring at Daly River Police Station and along the Lower Daly River where the flood peak was around Beeboom Crossing, as of 01 March. Levels of the Daly River are likely to remain high for the next 48 hours.

Victoria River at Kalkarindji, NT, Australia, February to March 2023. Image: BoM

700 Evacuated

The Northern Territory Government’s Emergency Services department said around 700 people are being relocated by air to Katherine and then bus to Darwin into temporary accommodation in Darwin.

Regional Controller, Commander Daniel Bacon said, “Access roads to the communities have been cut. Daguragu has been isolated by floodwaters for two days and inundation of these communities is likely tonight.

“A decision has been made for the safety of the residents to evacuate.”

People in the area should avoid unnecessary travel to allow for the safe evacuation to take place.

Victoria Daly Regional Council Mayor, B. Pedwell, said it was extremely disappointing faster action had not been taken by Emergency Services to protect Daguragu and Kalkarindji residents.

“If the Northern Territory Government had acted immediately, residents would have been able to be evacuated from the community earlier, before the situation got completely out of hand,” Mayor Pedwell said.

“Why haven’t they learnt lessons from the very recent disaster in Timber Creek? Early action is needed to mitigate such disasters, and instead, everyone waited around until it got to an absolute crisis point.”

“We have spent a long time advocating for the installation of gauge markers in Kalkarindji and Daguragu so that water levels can be tracked. We are now seeing the ramifications of this inaction.”

Mayor Pedwell also expressed concern for neighbouring communities of Pigeonhole, Yarralin and Timber Creek, communities extremely prone to flooding in the wet season.

Areas of Pigeonhole are known to be prone to flooding and the Regional Council said it has advocated for the relocation of houses in the community for a number of years.

Mayor Pedwell added that one of the most frustrating parts of the Emergency Response from the Northern Territory Government was the fact local decision-makers were not being listened to.

“The voices of local decision-makers are not being listened to when it comes to natural disasters, and that has to change,” Mayor Pedwell said.

“We are the people that live on Country and have first-hand knowledge of what’s going on. Why aren’t they listening?”

Floods in Kalkarindji, NT, Australia, 01 March 2023. Photo: Victoria Daly Regional Council 
Flooding at Sandy Creek, NT, Australia, 01 March 2023. Photo: Victoria Daly Regional Council