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Coober Pedy residents question delay in government aid after isolated flooding caused food shortages

Supermarket shelves in the remote town of Coober Pedy, South Australia, were left bare after a section of the Stuart Highway flooded last week.

It was a situation that had local resident Terry Brennan-Kuss worried for vulnerable members of his community.

“The shelves were absolutely bare, it was terrible, no bread, none of that, some milk but a huge shortage of just about everything,” Mr Brennan-Kuss said.

“It’s a huge worry – I mean we’re fine, we’ve got a freezer full of food and canned stuff, but certainly for some people in town, some of the older people who just buy as they need it, day to day, they won’t have much food up their sleeve.

“Baby food, things like that, people with four or five kids in their family, it’s pretty scary. No bread, it’s terrible.”

Flood waters on the Stuart Highway after record rain. (Facebook: Infrastructure and Transport SA)

The highway, which connects SA and the country’s southern states to the Northern Territory, has been closed between Coober Pedy and the remote outpost of Glendambo since the freak weather event.

Last week’s floods also caused extensive damage along part of the railway line between Coondambo and Lyon, 473 kilometers northwest of Port Augusta.

Motorists reported that Coober Pedy was running out of autogas and running out of diesel.

Brennan-Kuss said the city hadn’t delivered fresh produce for a week until a food truck pulled through today.

“If the food hadn’t arrived today, we would have been in really big trouble because there was nothing left,” he said.

The floods have also led to supply shortages at supermarkets in the Northern Territory, forcing Coles to introduce purchase limits on essential groceries.

empty supermarket product bays
Supermarkets in Alice Springs were also left without fresh produce and other essential supplies. (ABC Alice Springs)

The South Australian government on Friday declared the flooding and storm damage on the Eyre Peninsula a ‘major incident’, giving state co-ordinator Police Commissioner Grant Stevens additional powers to deal with heavy vehicle movements, food security and other issues affecting isolated remote areas. communities.

Local residents have expressed concern over the lack of government assistance since the highway was flooded.

“Next time, or even now, I’d like to see a little more effort to fix the problem.”

An aerial photo of a waterlogged backcountry showing b-double and triple road trains parked on and off the road.
Trucks are stuck waiting for the flood waters to recede on the Stuart Highway.(Provided: Mat Kerin)

Federal government enacts ‘disaster response plan’

This afternoon, Federal Minister of Emergency Management Bridget McKenzie released a statement on supply chain shortages.

Ms McKenzie said: “Australians can be assured that action is being taken to maintain essential supplies and groceries in Darwin, Western Australia and Coober Pedy in South Australia after severe flooding caused damage to road and rail infrastructure”.

“The National Coordination Mechanism is actively working with states and territories, supermarkets, rail owners and operators, road freight operators to respond to supply chain disruptions caused by inclement weather,” she said. declared.

Ms McKenzie said the federal government had activated the government’s “disaster response plan” in anticipation of requests for financial assistance.

“Our first concern is the safety and needs of those directly affected and we know that by working together we can turn the wheels and restore supply chains across the country,” she said.

“The community also has a role to play in this, buying what you need and not hoarding it. It unnecessarily increases demand and then has a direct impact on supply.”

Rubble and rocks thrown across a desert road by a bobcat
South Africa’s Department of Infrastructure and Transport says its staff are working around the clock to repair the highway. (Facebook: Infrastructure and Transport SA)

MP for Gray Rowan Ramsey welcomed the announcement.

“It is unclear at this stage when the Stuart Highway will reopen and the concerns expressed by the community of Coober Pedy and those who rely on it as a supply line are understandable,” Mr Ramsey said.

“Put simply, we need to find an immediate way to get the goods through.”

According to the government, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has issued a “Northern Territory Assistance Notice for Class 2 Supplemental Access”, which will allow increased freight capacity on alternative road networks to try to ensure the delivery of essential supplies.

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