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  • Rikki Lambert

Food airlift as flooding isolates Coober Pedy

A RAAF C-27J Spartan will head to flood stricken Coober Pedy, as it did in 2020 to fire-isolated Sale, Vic

Coober Pedy and Andamooka residents in South Australia's north were provided sandbags by the State Emergency Service on Sunday as the RAAF prepared on Monday morning to fly essential food supplies to the town cutoff by flood waters.

The Stuart Highway remains closed from Glendambo to Coober Pedy. The highway is being constantly monitored, however significant water over the road is preventing access and delaying safety assessments. Forecast heavy rain next week could further delay reopening of the highway.

More broadly, residents in the North West and North East Pastoral areas have been advised to maintain their level of preparedness with further rain forecast for the first week of February.

The SES warned that rainfall totals of up to 100-200mm are possible across parts of the Pastoral Districts from Monday 31 January to Wednesday 2 January.

Further rainfall on top of saturated catchments and already damaged roads may result in quicker and greater impacts than normal.

The Australian Defence Force is set to deliver 20 tonnes of food and supplies to Coober Pedy in South Australia where grocery shipment routes have been affected by floodwaters.

Inland floods this week damaged rail infrastructure in South Australia and cut food supply lines to the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Shortages of food and essential supplies are now a concern in Darwin, Western Australia and remote towns including Coober Pedy.

Premier Steven Marshall said on Sunday:

"We are very grateful to our friends in the Australian Defence Force who have been helping South Australia, first with the bushfires of course, then with our response to coronavirus and now with these extreme weather events.
"In addition, a new heavy vehicle route has been secured for access to the Northern Territory through New South Wales, Queensland and into Darwin."

The premier said several motorists had ignored road closures overnight and he urged truck drivers to stay away from floodwaters.

A 14-day major emergency was declared in South Australia on Friday, allowing the state's Police Commissioner Grant Stevens to direct the movement of freight and improve SA food security.

Federal Emergency Management Minister Bridget McKenzie on Saturday said people would not go without food:

"Our first concern is for the safety and needs of those directly affected and we know that through working together we can keep the wheels turning and restore supply chains across the country."

Emergency Services warned that that creeks may flow faster than normally expected and that overland flow is also possible, whilst floodwaters may be contaminated particularly from inundated septic systems.

Standing water may also result in an increase of mosquitos breeding and snakes may also be present in the area.

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