By Lloyd Jones
A convoy of trucks is due to arrive in the West Australian town of Carnarvon to deliver fuel, groceries and other supplies following record floods in the Gascoyne region.
Water and power supplies have been largely restored to the town which escaped major flooding thanks to reinforced levees.
But plantation owners around the town and pastoral stations along the Gascoyne River have lost millions of dollars in crops and livestock.
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About 40 residents of the small settlement at Gascoyne Junction, about 170km east of Carnarvon, were evacuated on Wednesday after properties there were heavily damaged in the floods and water and power supplies cut.
The North West Coastal Highway was reopened to traffic on Thursday, allowing trucks carrying fuel, groceries and water into Carnarvon and giving travellers who were stranded by the floods the chance to get out.
“There’ll be a bit of a bottleneck for a while and we’re just asking people to be patient,” Shire President Dudley Maslen said.
The town’s evacuation centre was expected to be cleared on Thursday as receding floodwaters allowed residents to return to their properties and power was restored to caravan parks, he said.
Up to 180 people have stopped at the centre, many airlifted from flooded properties in the Carnarvon area when the floods hit at the weekend.
“Now’s when the work begins, it won’t be exciting,” Mr Maslen told AAP.
He said the whole town and most of the plantations would have electricity restored by Thursday and only about 50 customers might be without power for another 10 days because roads remained cut off.
Water was flowing again after power to pumps was restored, resolving earlier concerns about hygiene and disease, Mr Maslen said.
He will take a helicopter tour of devastated areas on Thursday with WA Senator Chris Evans, who has been asked to report on the damage by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
The shire president said despite the floods he believed residents would make the most of things and have a good Christmas.
“We’ve come through a fairly major trying time and we haven’t lost any life.
“Some people have had terrible devastation to their assets and their homes but the community support right across Australia and the generosity of people has been very humbling and overwhelming.
“It’s absolutely fantastic, it makes you proud to be Australian I can tell you.”
The Fire and Emergency Services Authority said helicopters would continue supply drops on Thursday to isolated communities and stations in the region.
It warned people to stay out of floodwaters which may contain sharp objects hidden below the water and animal carcasses that could carry diseases.