Onslow in the Pilbara reaches 50.7C, equalling Australia's hottest day on record

Amber Montgomery and Nicole Ahuriri try to stay cool in Onslow. (Supplied)

A small beachside town in the Pilbara has equalled Australia's hottest day on record. 

Temperatures reached 50.7 degrees Celsius at Onslow at 2.26pm, matching Oodnadatta in outback South Australia, which hit 50.7C on January 2, 1960.

Onslow's previous record was 48.9C set in 2008. 

The town, around 1,400 kilometres north of Perth, also took the title of Western Australia's hottest day from Roebourne airport and Mardie which both recorded 50.5C on Thursday.

Temperatures have soared across the Pilbara. (ABC Pilbara: Amelia Searson)

Mardie had also reached 50.5C in February 1998, while the previous record at the Roebourne airport weather station was 49.4C in December 2011.

Elsewhere, Karratha broke its record with 48.4C at 11.28am. Its previous record of 48.2C was set in January 2003. 

Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Luke Huntington said a lack of thunderstorm activity along the West Pilbara coast had led to build-up of hot air between Exmouth and Port Hedland.

"The heat is fairly common especially when you don't get that thunderstorm activity and the showers bringing the cooler temperatures," he said.

How are locals keeping cool? 

James Corea says taking breaks in the shade is not enough to escape the heat. (ABC News: Verity Gorman)

6 Star Group managing director James Corea, who is based in Karratha, said it was a struggle to work in the hot conditions.

The north-west electrical contractor said the team took regular drink breaks and tried to organise jobs in cooler environments when temperatures soared to 49 degrees.

"[We] try and have some rest breaks in the shade. The problem is days like this it's actually too hot in the shade so you need to get in the aircon or you start having heat exhaustion," Mr Corea said.

Roebourne officer in charge Mark Barratt said the best way to stay cool in the heat was to stay out of it, but he was not having much luck at staying inside. 

"It's that hot that the air conditioning in my office decided to stop working, so things are starting to feel the stress that's for sure." 

Brohdi Woods works in Roebourne and said while it was quite a scorcher, she liked the heat. 

"We've been in the office pretty much all day so it's a bit of a shock to come outside." 

Her recommendation is to stay inside and get an office job if you work in the Pilbara.

Brohdi Wood and Jess Ware are trying to stay cool during Roebourne's searing heat. (ABC Pilbara: Amelia Searson)

Prisoners set to swelter without air con 

Meanwhile, prisoners in residential cells in Roebourne Regional Prison will go without air-conditioning despite a recommendation by the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services.

A report by the inspector's office in 2020 recommended the government implement effective climate control in all residential units at the prison.

The Department of Justice said the installation of air conditioning was not a priority.

With temperatures set to soar in the town, a department spokesperson said it would employ a number of effective controls to manage heat risk.

Air-conditioning has not been installed in all cells in Roebourne Regional Prison. (ABC News: Kendall O'Connor)

"At Roebourne, this includes fans in every cell, air-conditioning in the recreation hall, shade structures in the main areas of the prison and a flexible routine to adjust to the Pilbara's heat conditions," the spokesperson said.

"There are a limited number of air-conditioned cells available for prisoners with medical conditions and air-conditioned transition cells for Section 95 prisoners who undertake full-day outdoor physical activities."

The department said cell temperatures would be monitored throughout the day.

It also said prisoners could use sprinkler systems and ice would be made available morning and night.


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