Pilbara residents urged to take action ahead of floodwaters

Sarah Ison and Shannon BeattieNorth West Telegraph
VideoThe category 4 cyclone is expected to hit land in the Pilbara between Karratha and Port Hedland on the weekend.

Port Hedland residents are being urged to take action now and evacuate as major flooding poses serious risks to low lying areas across the region.

Heavy rainfall and dangerously high tides associated with category 4 Cyclone Veronica - currently sitting 355km northwest of Port Hedland - are expected to cause significant inundation to areas of the Pilbara Coastal Rivers, with residents told to expect the “worst case scenario” at a community meeting at the Town of Port Hedland Council Chambers this afternoon.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services Superintendent and Incident Controller John Newman told residents not to be complacent about impending risks.

“The worst case scenario doesn’t often get realised,” he said.

“But if it does occur, the impacts are catastrophic, so we please urge you to heed our warnings.

“Our message is to relocate early. Don’t leave it to the last minute because the reality is with these destructive winds coming in, if you decide not to go, once it gets dangerous we won’t be sending anyone to you.”

The Emergency WA site warned residents to never walk swim or play in floodwaters and advised to watch for changes in water levels and pack a relocation kit together with an emergency kit, along with relocating equipment and livestock.

Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco said the JD Hardie Youth Zone would be opened as an evacuation centre when required and was already adequately supplied.

“Keep an eye on our Facebook page to see when that centre opens,” he said

“Unfortunately animals are not permitted at the evacuation centre.”

Karratha State Emergency media manager Barry Harrison said if people were planning to leave before the cyclone arrived, now was the time as roads would begin closing from 12pm tomorrow.

The Bureau of Meteorology advised rainfall totals for the Pilbara Coastal Rivers catchments from Saturday through to Monday are expected to range from 100mm to 500mm.

Mr Newman said in the worst case scenario, storm tides were expected to reach 4m above normal high tide levels and asked people “take responsibility” for themselves and stay out of harm’s way.

Along with dangers to property and life, health risks were also associated with the impending flood waters, which could contain harmful waste and sewerage.

The Pilbara Ports Authority advised the Ports of Port Hedland, Ashburton and Dampier had now shut down and all anchorages and harbours had been cleared.

A Rio Tinto spokesperson confirmed all non-essential staff had been flown out of Karratha.

The blue alert has been extended to include the area from Mardie and Wallal Downs, including Port Hedland, South Hedland, Wickham, Roebourne, Point Samson, Karratha, Dampier, Barrow Island, Pannawonica and Marble Bar.

The Town of Port Hedland Civic Centre and depot no longer have any sandbags remaining, but the Hedland State Emergency Service will have sandbags available from tomorrow morning.

In Karratha, the SES will have sandbags available again tomorrow and they can be filled with sand at the BMX track on Rosemary Road or at the Karratha Kats Football Club on Tilbrook Close.

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