27 Dec 2016

Flash flooding sparks evacuations in central Australia

10:50 am on 27 December 2016

A massive storm and heavy rain that has sparked damaging flash floods in central Australia is being described as a once-in-50-years weather event by the country's Bureau of Meteorology.

Waterfalls cascade down Uluru after flash flooding in central Australia

Waterfalls cascade down Uluru after flash flooding in central Australia Photo: Parks Australia

A quarter of the community of Kintore was evacuated after it was drenched by 232mm of rain in 24 hours - taking the December total to a record 373.4mm.

More than 60mm fell between 8pm and 9pm on Christmas night alone, which the bureau labelled a one-in-50-year rainfall event.

The downpours caused the closure of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, where Uluru (Ayers Rock) is located.

Photographs taken by park rangers showed waterfalls caused by the downpour cascading down the sides of the rock.

Park manager Mike Misso said rangers closed the park yesterday due to the risk of flooded roads and the potential for car accidents.

"There's a lot of water … coming off the rock and what that does is just channels across the ring road around Uluru, some of those roads there were flooded by about 300 to 400mm of rain. [It is] quite spectacular but very hazardous road conditions," he said.

Small communities inundated

Northern Territory police said it had caused significant flash flooding woes for the 400 people living in Kintore, which is located about 520km west of Alice Springs near the Western Australia border.

"There's a significant number of houses that have been affected by flooding in some capacity," Acting Superintendent Pauline Vicary said.

She said 20 to 25 homes were flooded, fences on other properties were damaged and cars were submerged.

"We're estimating about 40 per cent of the houses in Kintore have had some sort of damage as a result of the flooding," she said.

96 people were taken to an emergency evacuation point at the local school - 85 are still sheltering there but others found accommodation with family and friends.

"Thankfully no one's been injured," Ms Vicary said.

"It is a remote area and it's quite tricky, all the roads are impassable from the [Northern Territory] side into Kintore at the moment, and the [Western Australia] access is also significantly impaired and it's quite dangerous to get though, so it's obviously going to impair us getting resources in there."

Low cloud cover meant the police plane had not been able to fly in to the stranded community.

However, Ms Vicary said the community had a good emergency plan, plenty of food and medical supplies, and the medical clinic was not affected.

Ms Vicary said Papunya community, about 250km west of Alice Springs, was also "completely isolated, roads are impassable", but there were no reports of flooding.

The town square of Yulara, the community closest to Uluru, was inundated and firemen were pumping the water out.

Some flights were cancelled.