• Jason Regan

Rescue flights for stranded SA tourists

Stranded travellers may be flown out of Coober Pedy, in South Australia's north, with the road to Adelaide still flooded after heavy outback rains.

A supplied image shows a Royal Australian Air Force C-27J Spartan transport aircraft delivering food supplies at Coober Pedy airport in Coober Pedy, South Australia, Monday, January 31, 2022. (AAP Image/Supplied by The Department of Defence, Jarrod Mulvihill)

Close to 20 people may be airlifted out by the RAAF, which came to the town's aid earlier this week with 20 tonnes of food and other supplies. The Stuart Highway, the main road link between Adelaide and Darwin, remains underwater in parts with expectations it could be closed for close to two weeks.

Premier Steven Marshall said he understood the frustration of those in Coober Pedy but the conditions in the area remained hazardous.

"We really do need to be very clear that it is still a very dangerous situation," he said on Wednesday.
"We have roads we're not sure of at the moment. There has been massive rainfall and this creates a dangerous situation."

The premier said a major logistical exercise was underway to repair road and rail infrastructure across the state's north and also to ensure remote communities were supplied with essential items.

As that exercise continued, the State Emergency Service said the risk of more rain across the north had reduced and water levels were dropping slowly.

"But areas of water ponding will remain in the area for some time," it said.

Pumping was being explored as an option to allow repair crews access as soon as possible and alternative routes were being considered, with defence officials examining the possibility of using roads within the Woomera prohibited area.

Repairs to rail lines across 300km of track were also underway but were not expected to be completed until mid-February.

Rain across the affected area on Tuesday night was less than originally forecast after several centres copped a drenching the previous day, including Ernabella, on the Indigenous APY lands, which had more than 100 millimetres.

The deluge extended as far south as Port Augusta which had more than 50mm in a three-hour period, enough to turn roads into rivers and leave the town's main oval underwater.

Full damage assessments were continuing with a working group established to bring together data from local councils and state agencies.