SYDNEY – Australian army helicopters have evacuated several hundred people stranded by “the floods of the century” which hit the northwest of the country, a rescue operations official said on Sunday.
The vast but sparsely populated Kimberley region is a victim of the climatic phenomenon Ellie, an ancient tropical cyclone accompanied by heavy rains.
“Water is everywhere,” Stephen Dawson, Minister of Emergency Services for Western Australia, told reporters. “Kimberley residents are facing a once-in-a-century flood event, the worst in Western Australian history.”
In some places, the flooded land stretches for 50 kilometers, “as far as the eye can see”, he added.
Australia has been the victim of frequent floods over the past two years, but in its eastern part, following the recurrent climatic phenomenon of La Nina.
In the western Kimberley region, where half the population is of Aboriginal origin, 232 people have been evacuated so far, authorities said. While the rain subsided after the storm moved east and into northern territories, the Bureau of Meteorology warned that “record flooding” continued there.
Authorities say Chinook helicopters are on their way to help relocate residents. Five more helicopters are expected to come to the rescue by Thursday.
(Sam McKeith, Gilles Guillaume for the French version)