A mammoth flood relief effort is currently underway in the WA’s Kimberley region, with authorities revealing it could take over a year to repair a major bridge on the state’s only sealed road linking Broome with the rest of the Kimberley and Northern Territory.
In what’s being described as “once-in-a-century flooding”, emergency services minister Stephen Dawson says the bridge at Fitzroy Crossing and the Great Northern Highway has suffered significant damage.
It’s understood that engineers and divers will begin to inspect the bridge structure in the coming days to determine what can be salvaged and the scale work of work that will be needed before the bridge can be reopened.
“That will give us an indication of how many months or indeed years to build that bridge back up again,” Dawson told reporters on Tuesday. “Early indications are that that work will take a significant amount of time.”
Any work on the bridge is likely to begin once the wet season ends.
For now, road trains carrying freight for Kununurra and the Northern Territory have been diverted from southern WA in South Australia to travel up the Stuart Highway through central Australia.
A barge is also transporting essential goods from Port Hedland to Broome, with authorities indicating that by air or boat might be the only the way to reach some impacted communities for the time being.
Centurion is among the transport companies delivering vital supplies by road and barge to Fitzroy Crossing and the surrounding communities in East Kimberley.
It sent three fully loaded B-double trucks transporting groceries from Perth last Tuesday via South Australia and the Northern Territory, adding more than 3000km each way to the journey.
Centurion has also been working with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and customers Coles Group and Woolworths Supermarkets over the weekend to mobilise its emergency barge service to deliver essential items to affected communities.
The standby service is activated from Dampier and used to transport trailers into Broome in the West Kimberley if the town finds itself suffering from extended isolation due to floodwaters.
Centurion loaded five fully stocked trailers onto the barge which will provide crucial food deliveries for local Coles and Woolworths supermarkets in Broome, Derby and surrounding areas, ensuring ongoing supply of much needed groceries.
Supported by the Department of Fire & Emergency Services, the barge departed Dampier on Sunday, and is due to arrive in Broome today (Wednesday, January 11).
Centurion CEO Justin Cardaci said the company was doing everything it could to support affected communities.
“We’re in constant contact with Main Roads through relationships that were established when the rail line between WA and the eastern states was washed out last year,” Cardaci said.
“We came together quickly to ensure vital food supplies got through, proving that industry and Government can work together at times like these to ensure communities are looked after and get the supplies they need.”
It will be weeks before the region’s major highways are safe to re-open and damage to road infrastructure will take some time to repair.
Cardaci added that the massive and complex logistical exercise will go on for some time.
“There is a surprising and devastating amount of water in the area, and we’re seeing the benefits of the forward planning we had in place to be able to quickly move supplies to the region.”
Floodwaters have peaked in the Fitzroy River catchment. The record-breaking river flow – which brought an island sea 50 kilometres wide in some areas – is now flowing out into the Indian Ocean.
Crocodiles have also been spotted near flooded Willare.