“Once in a century” floods are ravaging parts of Australia’s northwest, an official leading relief efforts said over the weekend.
The flooding has affected Kimberley, a sparsely populated area in Western Australia state, and has been triggered by severe weather system Ellie, a former tropical cyclone that has brought heavy rain.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Saturday described the flooding as “devastating” and pledged federal assistance.
The Bureau of Meteorology said on Sunday that rain had eased as the storm shifted eastwards to the Northern Territory, but warned that “record-breaking major flooding” continued in the Kimberley.
“Many roads are impassable and many communities are now isolated,” the forecaster said on its website.
The Fitzroy River hit 15.81 metres (52 feet) at Fitzroy Crossing on Wednesday, breaking its 2002 record of 13.95 metres, a bureau spokesperson said.
State emergency authorities have warned residents in other small communities of rising water in the region, which includes the resort town of Broome, about 1,240 miles (2,000 km) north of Perth.
While the extent of flood damage is difficult to assess at this early juncture, authorities expect the recovery effort to take months.
“The water is everywhere,” Western Australia Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson told reporters in Perth.
“People in Kimberley are experiencing a one-in-100-year flood event, the worst flooding Western Australia has had in its history.”
In some parts, he said flood waters stretched for 50 kilometres with inundation “as far as the eye can see”.
The town of Fitzroy Crossing, a community of around 1,300 people, has been among the worst hit, with supplies having to be airlifted in due to flooded roads.
Across the Kimberley, where around 50% of residents are Aboriginal, 233 people had so far been evacuated due to flooding, authorities said.