BIG WET: The community at Daly River has flooded, causing the evacuation of about 380 people.
BIG WET: The community at Daly River has flooded, causing the evacuation of about 380 people. NT Police

Hundreds evacuated, roads cut

MORE than 300 people have been evacuated from the Daly River region after the Bureau of Meteorology issued a major flood warning for the river on Monday.

The community was first set to be evacuated on Australia Day, but the level of flooding expected was revised down soon after and the community remained on standby.

Heavy rains associated with a lingering monsoon for most of last weekend again saw a revision of the expected level of flooding in the region and the suspended emergency services evacuation plan was enacted.

The Northern Region Emergency Controller, Assistant Commissioner Matthew Hollamby, said the community had been ready for the evacuation since Australia Day.

"The Daly River Emergency Plan has been active since last Friday and the community has been on standby for an evacuation,” he said earlier this week.

The first, small group of people were evacuated to Darwin's Foskey Pavilion at the showgrounds by helicopter on Monday.

The process to evacuate the other 300 or so residents of the area swung fully into action at first light on Tuesday.

People were either flown or bused to Darwin across the course of the day from the community about 220km southwest of the capital.

At the time of publication, the water level of the Daly River had already exceeded the major flood level of 14m by about half a metre and it was rising steadily.

The flooded Daly River.
The flooded Daly River. NT Police

The Daly region is not the only area across the Top End feeling the effects of the monsoonal downpours.

In Darwin rural areas, flood waters covered several arterial roads, stopping commuters getting in and out of the area for a few days.

Berry Creek was cut off at Berry Springs to morning commuters for several days, forcing many schoolchildren to miss their first day back in class.

While the flooding has been an inconvenience to commuters and businesses, it may prove a godsend to farmers in the Litchfield region, with many of the aquifers reportedly at low levels before the arrival of the monsoon.

The rains, in which more than 400mm fell at Darwin River Dam in the week to Tuesday, resulted in the dam starting to spill over late on Monday night.

In a statement, Power and Water confirmed "the Darwin River Dam reached capacity and ... started to spill”.

"Spilling from the dam has frequently occurred during previous wet seasons and is normal. The dam is designed to overflow when it reaches capacity, to reduce pressure on its wall.

"During spillway overflow, river levels downstream of the dam may rise rapidly and cause sudden changes in levels at road crossings downstream from the dam.”

Residents in the Darwin River Dam area were sent emergency messages either by text or voice to their phones warning of the potential for flash-flooding in the area.

Overflow at Darwin River Dam.
Overflow at Darwin River Dam. Power and Water

That process was repeated across the Top End and in Darwin outer rural areas such as Marrakai, where the floodplains have been saturated by the monsoon.

The rains also brought with them warning to Top End residents and visitors about the potentially deadly soil- borne disease melioidosis.

The Centre for Disease Control reported that cases of melioidosis had increased in January following the heavy wet season.

Since October 2017 there have been 16 cases of melioidosis reported in the Northern Territory.

Dr Vicki Krause, Northern Territory Centre for Disease Control director, said people had been hospitalised and some were seriously ill, requiring intensive care.

"The heavy downpour and strong winds over the last two weeks have led to a marked rise in the number of melioidosis cases in the Northern Territory, with nine cases reported over this two-week period,” Dr Krause said.

Melioidosis is a disease caused by the tropical bacteria known as burkholderia pseudomallei.

The disease can cause a variety of symptoms and signs, but the most common presentation is that of pneumonia, which means a person develops unexplained fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Other presentations include skin ulcers or sores that fail to heal, abscesses, weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain, urinary symptoms and occasionally neurological problems such as headache and confusion.

"During the dry season, melioidosis bacteria live deep within the soil, but after heavy rains they can be found in surface water and mud and aerosolised soil,” Dr Krause said.

"Contact with mud, groundwater and aerosolised soil during the wet season increases the chance of exposure to the melioidosis bacteria.”

"Cuts and sores are the perfect entry point for the bacteria to invade the body, but it can also be inhaled if it's stirred up by the wind,” Dr Krause said.

Anyone concerned about melioidosis should visit their local GP or hospital.

Further information on melioidosis can be obtained from the Centre for Disease Control on 8922 8044, your local doctor and community health care centres.

People needing to keep up to date with the latest emergency safety advice can visit www.SecureNT.nt.gov.au.


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