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Emergency services are ready for whatever the River Murray floods throw at us
Rescue specialists from interstate, and members of the Australian Defence Force, are doing what they can to help around the Murraylands.
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Dan Van Kiempema and his crew are here to help.
The Rural Fire Service air rescue crewman flew from Sydney to Pallamana last Wednesday in preparation for what he hoped would be a quiet few weeks.
He and his colleagues have had plenty of practise at winching people out of floodwaters in the eastern states over the past 12 months.
Among other incidents, they helped out at Eugowra, New South Wales, when a flash flood hit in November and two thirds of the town’s residents needed to be rescued from rooftops.
So, when the South Australian government put out a call for help, they answered.
“We’re a search and recovery platform, but we’ve also got the ability to long-line supplies in, resupply or transport,” he said.
His team’s Bell 412 helicopter is also equipped with an infra-red camera that can find people’s heat signatures in the dark of the night, or map terrain with precision.
Should they be needed, they were required to be airborne within 15 minutes, he said – but they could do it in nine.
The RFS are not the only reinforcements to have appeared in the Murraylands lately, either.
Queensland Fire and Rescue officers have been checking levees and door-knocking in flood-prone areas, having experienced floods in the south-east of their home state last summer.
The Australian Defence Force is here, too, with troop carriers that can be used to deliver supplies or evacuate flood-stricken locals.
Governor Frances Adamson visited the Murraylands on Sunday to review the emergency services’ preparations.
Among other stops, she toured the Country Fire Service’s regional headquarters at Murray Bridge East, which has become a staging post for the flood defence.
The CFS’ regional operations manager, Chris Bastian, said emergency services personnel were all working together to keep the public safe: “every South Australian is out here trying to help every other South Australian”.
That was a heartening thought, the Governor said afterwards.
“We’re obviously concerned at the situation that’s unfolding … our hearts go out to everyone along the river,” she said.
“But people are being very thorough in their preparations, and there’s a real sense of community.
“These are resilient communities and they’re preparing well.”
Other South Australians, and indeed all Australians, would be thinking of people in the Murraylands and Riverland this Christmas, she said.
“I wish everyone as good a Christmas as they can possibly have in the circumstances.”
More information: Visit www.sa.gov.au or call 1800 362 361.
Current SES warnings: www.ses.sa.gov.au.
Get help: Call the SES on 132 500 or, in a life-threatening emergency, call 000.
Read more: Murray Bridge flood watch
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