Image Credit – Wes Warren
A state of emergency has been declared in Western Australia’s Kimberley region as the area experiences the worst floods in its history. The torrential rains brought by former tropical cyclone Ellie have resulted in vast areas being inundated, with flood waters extending for 50 kilometres in some areas.
According to Federal Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt, the rainfall in the Western region has been extraordinary, stating, “this sheer amount of water that is flowing through the region is just staggering and the impact this is having on these communities is immense.”1
The town of Fitzroy Crossing, home to around 1,300 people, including many remote indigenous communities, has been among the hardest hit, requiring airlifts of supplies due to flooded roads. The Fitzroy River reached 15.81 metres at Fitzroy Crossing on Wednesday, breaking its 2002 record of 13.95 metres.2
State emergency authorities have warned residents in other small communities of rising waters in the area, which includes the resort town of Broome, about 2,000 kilometres north of Perth.
It is currently difficult to assess the extent of the damage from the floods, but authorities expect recovery efforts to take months. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has described the flooding as “devastating” and pledged federal assistance, and states, “we have already deployed aircraft to assist with evacuations and to transport crucial supplies, and will continue to provide support now and long after the water recedes.”3
The flood-affected areas will be eligible for assistance through the Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, and the funding will be allocated to emergency assistance, temporary living expenses, replacement of essential household goods, housing repairs, and personal and financial counselling assistance.4 The Department of Defence has also announced that five Australian Defence Force helicopters will begin operations in the Kimberley by Thursday (12th January).5
The state of emergency comes after repeated floods in Western Australia over the past two years due to the “La Niña” phenomenon. Some eastern regions have suffered from four major floods since last year due to the La Niña, which is usually associated with increased rainfall.
The Met Office warns that “record-breaking large floods” will continue in the Kimberley region.
1. Government of Western Australia, 9 January 2023. Joint media statement – Disaster assistance for Kimberley Shires affected by record-breaking flooding. Available at https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/McGowan/2023/01/Joint-media-statement-Disaster-assistance-for-Kimberley-Shires-affected-by-record-breaking-flooding.aspx [accessed 11/01/23]
2. Government of Western Australia, 9 January 2023. Joint media statement – Disaster assistance for Kimberley Shires affected by record-breaking flooding.
3. Government of Western Australia, 9 January 2023. Joint media statement – Disaster assistance for Kimberley Shires affected by record-breaking flooding.
4. Government of Western Australia, 9 January 2023. Joint media statement – Disaster assistance for Kimberley Shires affected by record-breaking flooding.
5. Australian Government Department of Defence, 8 January 2023. Lending a hand. Available at https://www.defence.gov.au/news-events/news/2023-01-08/lending-hand [accessed 11/101/23