The cost of repairing damage caused by unprecedented flooding in WA’s north will be massive, Anthony Albanese says.
The PM arrived in the remote Kimberley region to see the devastation and announce disaster relief payments.
He is expected to join Premier Mark McGowan to visit Fitzroy Crossing, which has borne the brunt of floodwaters now heading west.
From today, January 9, the public will be able to donate to the Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund.
Joint Commonwealth-state disaster recovery funding is being provided to the shires of Derby-West Kimberley, Broome, Wyndham-East Kimberley and Halls Creek, as well as the flood-affected Victoria Daly area in the NT.
It will go towards emergency assistance, temporary living expenses, replacing essential household goods, housing repairs and personal and financial counselling.
“Quite clearly, there’s going to be massive infrastructure investment required,” Mr Albanese said on Monday.
“There’ll also be required support for individuals … not just financial but we need to bear in mind the need for counselling and support as well.
“People will be devastated by the experience that they’ve gone through in recent days.”
Hundreds of residents who fled the region are still waiting to return home.
Plane loads of food and supplies are being flown into Fitzroy Crossing as assessment teams continue to inspect the cut-off town.
Work is also being done to ensure provisions can reach remote Indigenous communities.
“They’ve been isolated and cut off from each other, and we need to make sure that they’re given support as well,” Mr Albanese said.
The extent of cattle losses is unknown but the federal government will look at providing support for primary producers.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services deputy commissioner Craig Waters said floodwaters were continuing to rise at Willare, between Broome and Fitzroy Crossing, but were expected to peak later on Monday.
Authorities have warned residents to stay out of the water after reports of young children playing in a kayak which overturned.
Police are investigating reports of looters stealing alcohol from the Crossing Inn hotel in Fitzroy Crossing.
The hotel said it had decided to destroy all alcohol kept on site after its stock was submerged in floodwaters.
More than 100 Defence personnel are on the ground in the Kimberley and three aircraft have been provided to evacuate residents.
Five army helicopters have also been dispatched from Townsville and are expected to arrive later in the week.
Geoff Haerewa, President of the Derby and West Kimberley Shire, said emergency services and volunteer organisations were on top of the situation but hundreds of evacuees were crowded into makeshift evacuation facilities, such as community halls.
“There’s no air conditioning, and we don’t have the toilet facilities and the kitchen facilities to deal with a crisis of this size and magnitude,” he said.
Mr Haerewa called for government funding for fit-for-purpose evacuation centres and flood-resilient roads and infrastructure.
Deputy opposition leader Sussan Ley echoed calls for the government to focus on rebuilding communities in the aftermath of floods and other natural disasters.
The conditions have caused the Fitzroy River, which cuts across the Kimberley region, to swell as wide as 50km in some parts.
Concerns the Northern Territory would face more flooding eased on Sunday as former tropical cyclone Ellie subsided.