NT residents assess damage from Tropical Cyclone Megan after evacuation efforts fail | Northern Territory

Tropical Cyclone Megan has been downgraded to a tropical low in Australia’s north-east where remote communities are still cut off due to major flooding.

About 700 residents in the town of Borroloola faced the worst of the cyclone, which made landfall on the south-western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria on Monday afternoon as a category-three storm before weakening to a category one.

“We’ve had major flooding. The town was literally cut in two,” local Rebecca Whitehead said.

“It was pretty scary, because you’re so isolated from the community [and] the township and over where we are, it seemed like we were the last people … when we should have been the number one priority by having the river so close.”

Annie Roberts (left), chair of Mabunji Borroloola, Elizabeth Gillett (middle), chair of Mawa Borroloola and Lizzie Hogan (right), coordinator of Waanyi Garawa Rangers, who have been organising food drop offs to isolated residents in Borroloola, Northern Territory. Photograph: Rebecca Whitehead.

Borroloola township is divided between four community groups. Garawa camp one and Garawa Camp two, as they are known as, have been completely cut off from the rest of the community, Whitehead said, with locals forced to boat across the McArthur River to buy food from shops.

The Bureau of Meteorology warned that major flooding was likely at the isolated township by Wednesday, which may exceed the major 2001 peak flood level of 15m.

The Borroloola community was due to be evacuated before the cyclone arrived but RAAF aircraft were unable to land due to the severe conditions.

“I knew by the time the plane got here, that the cyclone would be closer to us and there’d be no chance,” Whitehead said.

Local police went to Whitehead’s house at 11.15pm on Sunday night to inform her to be at the council office for evacuation by 7am the next day, she said.

“It was ridiculous the way they organised it.”

Residents were instead told to shelter at the police station, health facility or dozens of dwellings capable of withstanding a category-three system.

Whitehouse went to her parents house but said she would have been fine at home, which was a newer federal government funded home built three years ago.

Whitehead said people out in her communities end up relying on each other to get through disasters like this one.

“We all choose to live remotely, but this is our home. And we elect people in to help us … but we are always forgotten.”

Barkly MLA Steve Edgington said there were “still a couple of hundred angry and frustrated residents” waiting at the council office on Monday afternoon, 200 metres from the airport.

Flooding in the aftermath of Cyclone Megan story at Borroloola, Northern Territory. Photograph: Rebecca Whitehead

“Locals on the ground are wondering why the community and surrounding areas of Borroloola were not evacuated by the government [on Sunday] while weather conditions allowed,” he wrote on Facebook.

An evacuation of the McArthur River Mine was also called off due to the conditions.

In a statement, a Defence spokesperson said it deployed five aircraft on Monday but “despite multiple attempts” could not safely land at either the Borroloola or McArthur River Mine airstrips due to the weather.

“Defence is poised to provide further support to disaster relief and assistance efforts, conditions permitting,” the spokesperson said.

The Territory Emergency Operations Centre said overnight reports indicate all residents were safe, with no injuries.

“Minimal damage, primarily in the form of fallen trees, was reported within the community,” a statement said.

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Edgington said 40 houses, the health clinic and police station were all identified by the local emergency management team as places to withstand a category-three cyclone.

The local controller was planning to assess the safety of the airstrip on Tuesday.

The weather has caused interruptions to power supply in the region. Crews from PowerWater were on standby and “will respond when it is safe,” its website said. The estimated repair time was unknown.

Megan was downgraded to a tropical low south of Borroloola on Tuesday morning. The Bureau of Meteorology said it would move west through inland parts of the Northern Territory over the next few days.

A severe weather warning remained in place, with a flood watch for inland NT and Carpentaria coastal rivers.

“At this stage, the system is not expected to redevelop into a tropical cyclone even though it may approach the west Kimberley coast late in the week,” the bureau said.

The McArthur River at Borroloola was set to exceed the moderate flood level of 13.7m by late Tuesday afternoon, and was likely to surpass the major flood level of 15m by midday Wednesday, the Bureau said.

This would surpass the previous record flooding, set during 2001.

Moderate flooding was occurring at the Daly River police station on Tuesday, with the water steady at 13.54m. The Bureau said the river is expected to fall below the moderate flood level at the weekend.

Weatherzone meteorologist Ben Domensino reported that Borroloola received more than a month’s worth of rain in the 24 hours to 3.05am on Tuesday morning (local time), recording just over 300mm of rain.

Centre Island, which copped the brunt of Tropical Cyclone Megan, received more than 500mm of rain over the 48 hours to 8am on Tuesday – roughly half a year’s worth of rain for the island, Domensino reported.

Defence force personnel remained on standby to assist with recovery from Tuesday, Northern Territory police Supt Sonia Kennon told reporters.

Heavy rain and flash flooding was forecast for parts of the Carpentaria and the northern Barkly region on Tuesday morning.

Almost 600mm of rain fell at Groote Eylandt over the weekend as the severe weather system moved over the remote island communities.

First appeared on www.theguardian.com

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