As persistent rain blanketed the Top End towards the end of February and into March it became inevitable that several isolated communities on the Victoria River were going to require evacuation from the rising floodwaters – and the ADF was quick to lend a hand.
CAPTION: Royal Australian Air Force members assist residents from the Kalkarindji area being evacuated during major flooding in the Northern Territory. Story by Flight Lieutenant Rob Hodgson. Photo by Corporal Ashley Gillett.
At the request of the Northern Territory government, via the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Defence was asked to assist the territory’s emergency services with evacuating up to 600 people from the flood-affected areas.
The evacuees were from the remote communities in the Kalkarindji, Pigeon Hole and Daguragu areas, and air evacuation was the only viable option to get them to safety.
Two C-130J Hercules and one C-27J Spartan aircraft from 35 and 37 Squadrons were deployed to RAAF Base Tindal to begin the evacuations, which required multiple runs between the base and the airstrip at Kalkarindji.
CAPTION: Residents from the Kalkarindji area are evacuated by RAAF C-130J Hercules and C-27J Spartan aircraft. Photo by Corporal Ashley Gillett.
Flight times between Tindal and Kalkarindji, including embarkation of evacuees, were about one hour and all three aircraft did multiple round trips.
17 Squadron’s Air Movements section provided ground support to deploy the aircraft and receive evacuees.
Team Leader Air Movements Sergeant Linzey Beams said her team responded quickly and efficiently.
“The team was happy to assist in some real-time tasking and help to solidify the training received for the newer members,” Sergeant Beams said.
The evacuees were transported from Tindal to accommodation in Katherine and Darwin by civil authorities.
Aircraftman Daniel Shaw, who joined Air Movements at the beginning of this year as his first posting since finishing recruits, said the opportunity to assist the flood-affected communities provided an early taste of the rewarding nature of service.
“Being involved in a tasking like this is such a rewarding experience and I am so grateful of having the experience to help out the people affected by this terrible disaster,” Aircraftman Shaw said.
“My involvement makes me proud to put on the uniform.”