Res­i­dents flee flood­wa­ters

Geraldton Guardian - - News - Neville Thomp­son For more in­for­ma­tion, or to do­nate a his­tor­i­cal photo or slide to the li­brary, con­tact Trudi Cor­nish, Her­itage Ser­vices at the Ger­ald­ton Re­gional Li­brary on 9956 6659 or li­brary@cgg.wa.gov.au.

Swollen by cy­clonic rains, the usu­ally dry Gas­coyne River de­vel­oped into a rag­ing flood in mid-Fe­bru­ary, 1961.

Carnar­von had lit­tle warn­ing of this as the mass of wa­ter surged down­stream.

An emer­gency meet­ing of of­fi­cials at 2am on Fe­bru­ary 14 de­cided Carnar­von should be evac­u­ated. Those with tele­phones called neigh­bours while oth­ers door-knocked to spread the warn­ing, which sent well over 2000 res­i­dents head­ing south in a va­ri­ety of ve­hi­cles.

Some 16 hos­pi­tal pa­tients were trans­ported by truck and sta­tion wag­ons.

About 40 peo­ple re­mained in the town, in­clud­ing some whose homes were on high ground and above the flood level.

The first stop for about 500 res­i­dents was the 40 Mile Road Tank on Great North­ern High­way.

The rest con­tin­ued on to­wards Ger­ald­ton, where Recre­ation Ground had been turned into an emer­gency tent city, with a camp kitchen and med­i­cal post.

It was wash­ing day when this view of the tent city was taken.

The 40 Mile Road Tank camp was of­fi­cially closed the next day by health of­fi­cials af­ter cases of dysen­tery oc­curred among some of the chil­dren and the peo­ple were moved on to Ger­ald­ton.

The Gas­coyne River flood­wa­ters quickly sub­sided and res­i­dents were grad­u­ally able to re­turn to their homes, some of which had sus­tained se­vere dam­age.

Later came claims there had been whole­sale panic about the evac­u­a­tion, that the alarm was raised too early to al­low res­i­dents to save fur­ni­ture and goods, and evac­u­a­tion was un­nec­es­sary.

Pic­ture: Ger­ald­ton Re­gional Li­brary

An emer­gency tent city erected at Recre­ation Ground in Ger­ald­ton for Carnar­von flood evac­uees in 1961.

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