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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Mostafa Rachwani and Australian Associated Press

WA floods: Seven people missing for days in remote area found ‘safe and well’, police say

Police have located seven people missing amid ongoing flooding in remote Western Australia.

The group – which includes four children and two elderly drivers – left Kalgoorlie, about 600km east of Perth, on Sunday and were travelling north-east in two vehicles.

They were heading home to the Tjuntjuntjara Aboriginal community, with their family anxiously waiting on updates from police.

Late Wednesday, police confirmed the missing seven had been located and they were “safe and well”.

“Please be advised a short time ago the seven travellers were located by Police Air Wing safe and well within the search area,” a police spokesperson said.

“Arrangements are being made to rescue the travellers and provisions will be provided in the interim.”

John Lark, the chief executive of the Paupiyala Tjarutja Aboriginal Corporation, which manages the Tjuntjuntjara community, said the small community of 150 people were very concerned for the group’s welfare.

“They are important parts of the community, they are elders and artists, and their family is very anxious to hear from them.”

Lark said locals suspected the group’s two cars got bogged down in mud, and they were anxious to have supplies airdropped to them once they were located.

Western Australia police said in a statement on Wednesday that air assets had been deployed to search the “vast area”. Earlier on Wednesday, police said they had not been able to deploy any air assets as part of the search due to “severe weather conditions”.

Search efforts were hampered by the conditions on Tuesday, as a plane looking for the group could stay in the air for only about an hour.

The Eyre Highway between Norseman and Eucla, in the Goldfields-Esperance region, was made accessible to vehicles on Wednesday. Motorists were warned to drive to the conditions and exercise caution as there may be water over the road.

Goldfields Highway between Rosslyn Hill mine and Meekatharra also reopened for cars and four-wheel drives.

Significant rainfall over the past few days had resulted in localised flooding and road closures.

Heavy rainfall and thunderstorms were forecast for Wednesday and were expected to cause further river and creek level rises and overland flooding.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has maintained its storm warning for large sections of south-east WA, urging residents in Goldfields, Eucla and South Interior districts to take immediate action.

“This is not typical weather for south-eastern Western Australia,” the warning said.

Senior meteorologist Jessica Lingard said conditions were expected to ease on Wednesday evening, although flood waters may remain late into the week.

“Conditions are easing through the area from today. We do have that trough moving eastwards into South Australia from this evening, so conditions will be improving,” she said. “But it will take a while for the flood waters to clear completely.”

Communities along the north-west coast of the state are expected to see increased showers and intensifying winds on the weekend, as a tropical low was expected to develop into a cyclone off the coast.

Lingard said the system would remain offshore, with the Bureau of Meteorology continuing to track it.

“We are still expecting to see that system moving down towards the Pilbara coastline for the north-west of WA, and expecting a category one system by Friday and maybe a category two system on Saturday.”

The system was expected to slow down on Friday and turn southward, and then south-west over the weekend, and remain offshore from the coast.

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