(WESTERN AUSTRALIA) JUST IN: Gascoyne Flooding Report: Emergency services in Western Australia’s north are working to evacuate dozens of people from floods in the region on Friday #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Feb.06: Operations were underway on Friday to rescue around 40 people who became stranded in and around Minilya, about 120 kilometres north of Carnarvon:

‘Helicopters sent in to rescue dozens trapped in floodwaters across WA’s Gascoyne: A tropical low, previously expected to become WA’s first cyclone of the season, dumped hundreds of millimetres of rain in the state’s north last week, leading to flooding over major roads.

ABC News: Updated: 5h ago

Play Video. Duration: 2 minutes 1 second
Footage of Gascoyne floodwaters trapping motorists as choppers move in.

Truck driver Rob Minson was airlifted to safety by an RAC helicopter this morning, more than 36 hours after he became stranded on a patch of dry land along with three others.

“It was basically Gilligan’s Island,” he said.

“We were in the middle of nowhere.”

Raging floodwaters with trapped vehicles on an island.
Motorists and truckies are trapped on islands between floodwaters.(Supplied: Rob Minson)

Local helicopter operator Justin Borg saved two women who were stranded with their vehicles near Minilya on Thursday.

“They were pulled up between two bodies of water on the highway, on a piece of dry land, and the water just rose and rose,” he said.

“It overcame one motor vehicle which we flew over. We could just see the roof sticking out of the water.

“Further up the road there was another vehicle with two ladies on board.”

The Department of Fire and Emergency services (DFES) also sent a helicopter from Perth to Minilya via Karratha this morning.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the tropical low is weakening as it moves south.

Both the Bureau of Meteorology and DFES said people needed to remain cautious of rising river levels and floods.

A car swamped by floods on the North West Coastal Highway
Justin Borg surveys a car swamped by floods on the North West Coastal Highway.(Supplied: Coral Coast Helicopter Services)

Main Roads ‘followed proper procedure’

Mr Minson said while he was grateful for the work of emergency services, he felt more could have been done by Main Roads WA to keep people safe.

He said Main Roads personnel were at the Minilya Roadhouse on Thursday morning, but were not proactive in closing roads.

Mr Minson said they eventually became stranded themselves.

Main Roads spokesperson Dean Roberts confirmed staff did become stranded at the roadhouse and they followed proper procedure and closed the North West Coastal Highway on Wednesday evening.

“We closed it based on the best information and advice at the time,” he said.

Eroded road almost gone from floodwaters.
A truck trapped on an island in floods on the North West Coastal Highway, north of Carnarvon.(Supplied: Rob Minson)

Government flood response ‘worrying’

Helicopter pilot Justin Borg said he was also frustrated with the pace of government response to the emergency.

Mr Borg said he wanted to fly out again immediately after the initial rescue to reach more vehicles trapped by rising waters.

He said he spent most of the day on a phone call to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) office in Perth seeking permission.How to plan for floodingIf you could be cut off by floodwaters, make preparations. ABC Emergency has put together a list of things you should do if you are affected.Read more

DFES Midwest-Gascoyne Superintendent Craig Smith said Mr Borg was not allowed to complete further rescues because his helicopter was piston-engined.

He said DFES policy was to use turbine-powered vehicles, which were deemed to be safer.

Mr Smith said there was no threat to lives, so it was safe to wait overnight for a DFES-approved chopper to arrive from Perth. 

“The situation was not life threatening, so therefore the policy was applied,” he said.Loading

But Mr Borg said the wait time for a DFES helicopter – which he said took a full 24 hours after people first became stranded – was unacceptable and that he should have been allowed to go ahead.

He said waiting for helicopters from Perth further endangered those stranded.

“I think what we’re seeing here at the moment is just bureaucracy putting lives at risk again and decisions being made from the great South West, which really is a slap in the face to our local community,” he said.

Truck driver Barry Mason, who was stranded at Minilya Roadhouse, had to wait more than 24 hours for the arrival of the DFES-commissioned helicopter.

He said he he thought Mr Borg should have been allowed to fly out to him on Thursday.

“I would have preferred Justin come out and start transferring people when he was available to help,” he said.

#AceNewsDesk report …………Published: Feb.06: 2021:

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