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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Tory Shepherd

Engineers to assess flood-damaged bridges on key WA route amid concerns some could take years to fix

The Brooking channel bridge is damaged and collapsed as flood waters flow past
The Brooking Channel Bridge between Fitzroy Crossing and the Fitzroy River on the Great Northern Highway in Western Australia has also been damaged by flood waters. Photograph: Alyssa Storer/Supplied

Engineers will assess the destruction of major bridges on the trucking route connecting Western Australia and the Northern Territory on Wednesday amid concerns key infrastructure could could take months, or even years, to fix.

Main Roads WA and structural engineers will assess the Fitzroy River Bridge on the Great Northern Highway, as photos and videos emerge showing that the bridge has collapsed after being hit with record floods.

Detours for trucks delivering food and medical supplies to communities isolated in the floods add an extra 7,400km, resulting in a round trip of 12,000km – the equivalent of driving from Paris, France to Vladivostok, Russia.

Water is receding at Fitzroy Crossing, but Guardian Australia understands there are concerns it could take months or years to fix the bridge.

Main Roads WA has suggested building a temporary bridge while the official one is rebuilt.

Ex-tropical Cyclone Ellie caused intense rainfall in WA’s Kimberley region over the last couple of weeks. At one point, the amount of water flowing down Fitzroy River each day was the equivalent of Perth’s entire water use for 20 years.

Towns have been cut off and communities isolated in the state’s “worst ever” floods.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, who visited flood-stricken communities on Monday, said the road had just “dissipated”.

“This is at least a one-in-100-year event,” he said. “They haven’t seen anything like this, certainly that anyone can ever recall.

“We’ve seen major flooding along the Fitzroy River to Fitzroy Crossing.

“I’ve seen photos of the bridge there into Fitzroy Crossing, and it’s just gone like that the road has just dissipated.”

Albanese said there would be “massive infrastructure investment required”.

“It’s difficult doing infrastructure in some of these areas as well, they’re remote, they’re difficult to get into in some cases,” he said.

“We know the Great Northern Highway has been cut as well and there’ll be substantial investment required there. That is the major artery heading north in the great state of WA, but also across to the NT.”

Main Roads WA has warned people not to walk on to the bridge at Fitzroy Crossing, or anywhere else affected by flood waters.

Des Snook, acting manager director of Main Roads WA, said the practice was reckless and highly dangerous.

“Flood waters are moving at high velocity in many places and rising rapidly,” he said.

“It would be very easy for someone to get into difficulty and possibly lose their life as a consequence.”

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