Tag: Eyre Highway

Nullarbor highway reopens after being closed for 12 days

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The only sealed road linking Western Australia and South Australia reopened this morning after being closed for 12 days because of bushfires.

The closure of the Eyre Highway left hundreds of Nullarbor travellers and truck drivers trapped on both sides of the border.

Authorities reopened the 1,600-kilometre highway at 7:00am local time after fire conditions eased.

Frustrated and tired travellers were trapped on either side of the Nullarbor Plain while a bushfire burning near Norseman in Western Australia kept the highway closed to all traffic.

WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) Superintendent Andy Duckworth said motorists should be patient as they travel through.

“We appreciate everyone is frustrated and tired so we’ve taken these extraordinary measures over the last few days to keep people safe,” he said.

“The last thing we want now is for people to perhaps be involved in a road traffic crash.”

He said people should drive with care, adhere to the speed limits, be patient if they needed to overtake and be sensible on their journey.


Some of the stranded truck drivers have not been home since Boxing Day. (Supplied: Norseman Police)

Authorities were staggering the release of traffic to avoid congestion and had flown in extra police officers to patrol the highway.

But Goldfields-Esperance Sergeant Dave Christ said he encouraged people to postpone their travel.

“The advice is to wait at least a day or a couple of days to just give the traffic a chance to clear itself and make your trip a lot smoother,” he said.

The decision to reopen both the Eyre Highway and Coolgardie-Esperance Highway was made after fire conditions eased in the area.


The Eyre Highway was closed for 12 days due to bushfires. (Supplied: DFES)

Supt Duckworth said the fires were at advice level but still uncontained.

“There’s still work to be done and obviously as the weather changes so can the situation,” he said.

“We’ll be monitoring and working hard over the next few days, potentially weeks, to get these fires controlled and extinguished.”

Travellers stranded for days

The ABC spoke to visitors from Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia who were caught up in the extended closures.

While some were frustrated, most praised emergency services and volunteers in the towns in which they were stranded.


Glenn Freestone is one of the hundreds of motorists affected by the road closures. (ABC Goldfields: Andy Tyndall)

Glenda Allen from Warrnambool was in stuck in Esperance for six days and said she was “absolutely ecstatic” to be heading home.

Adelaide truck driver Glenn Freestone said the closures had “crippled” the transport industry.

“Out of the past month, I’ve been stuck for 22 days,” he said.

“I can’t wait to get back on the road, and hopefully if everyone plays nice we will get there safely.”


A stretch of the Eyre Highway became an unlikely cricket pitch for motorists at Border Village. (Supplied: Jarron Tewes)

An ‘unprecedented’ situation

Coles and Woolworths said the closure had impacted the supply of some fresh produce in stores this week.

The companies used other transport options like rail to bring in products and minimise the impact.

WA’s peak road transport body said while fresh fruit and vegetables would return to shelves in the next few days, it would take much longer for farmers to recover.


An Esperance supermarket was among the stores to suffer a shortage of fresh produce. (ABC Esperance: Emma Field)

Western Roads Federation chief executive Cam Dumesny said closing the vital route for nearly two weeks was unprecedented and would have significant consequences for the state’s economy.

“We have a lot of our produce growers here in WA who were sending their seasonal produce across to the east,” he said.

“Because of this closure, they’ve probably missed a fair chunk of their profits for the season.

“It’ll take some time to stabilise.”

Mr Dumesny applauded DFES, police, volunteers and the communities who supported the stranded motorists.

But he said the state would “need to take a deep breath once this is over and have a hard look at how we’ve managed it”.

“I think there’s some hard lessons we need to learn … how we look after people out there, sustain them and keep them updated with what’s going on.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Emergency convoy overcomes Nullarbor’s ‘tyranny of distance’ to get fire-stranded motorists through

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Almost 340 people have been successfully evacuated from roadhouses on a remote Nullarbor highway after becoming stranded by bushfires that have closed down the border between Western Australia and South Australia.

Key points:

  • The fires left more than 300 people stranded at Eyre Highway roadhouses
  • A brief change in conditions allowed them to be evacuated to Esperance
  • Authorities say the danger isn’t over and conditions may worsen this week

Fires burning around the small Goldfields town of Norseman have closed the Eyre Highway — the only sealed route between WA and SA — for the past eight days.

Nine separate fire fronts have destroyed more than 350,000 hectares and the area covered by the bushfire warning is bigger than the total land mass of the United Kingdom.

As fires continue to burn across the region, authorities today made use of a brief window of opportunity to move people from Caiguna along the highway to Norseman at the western end of the Nullarbor Plain, and then on to Esperance.


A queue of cars and trucks is escorted on the Eyre Highway after being trapped by bushfire. (ABC News: Jarrod Lucas)

‘Everyone bonded together’

Bunbury resident Margaret Fleming said she ran out of medication and her partner Michael Rowe also suffered health problems while stuck at Caiguna for six days.

The couple were returning from Christmas in South Australia.


Margaret Fleming and Michael Rowe were part of the 338-member convoy escorted through. (ABC News: Jarrod Lucas)

“It’s been very, very hot and my partner hasn’t been very well,” she said.

“The paramedics have been absolutely fabulous … they gave him an ECG (electrocardiogram) and checked his blood pressure every day.


The Eyre Highway linking WA and South Australia has been closed since last week. (Twitter: Norseman Police)

“The people at the roadhouse were just fantastic.

“It was the middle of nowhere, but everyone just bonded together and helped one another.

“You didn’t know them but sometimes you’d get upset and start crying … someone would come up and give you a cuddle and tell you it was going to be all right.”


Authorities have warned the danger posed by the bushfires is not over. (DFES: Evan Collis)

Road to remain closed as conditions worsen

Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) Commissioner Darren Klemm said the 1,660-kilometre-long Eyre Highway would remain closed for the foreseeable future with lightning forecast this week.

“It is difficult to say [when it will be reopened] but I can assure you that the number one priority of DFES, the incident controller and the crews on the ground is to get the Eyre Highway open as soon as we possibly can,” he said.

“People need to understand it’s a unique location out here. Here we have the tyranny of distance and it has been a focus from day one to get that road back open.”

External Link:

BOM WA tweet: Satellite gif showing smoke from bushfires along Eyre Highway

DFES Superintendent Mark Bowen said firefighters had made good progress on all the fire fronts over the past couple of days, but conditions were set to get worse.

“We currently have nine fires that we are managing out of Kalgoorlie and they range from out at Balladonia through to Norseman and up to Coolgardie,” he said.

During the past week, authorities have flown in emergency supplies and set up first-aid posts in Caiguna.

Aerial checks planned to spot campers

Authorities closed the WA-SA border yesterday and worked to advise travellers from Border Village out to Caiguna about the evacuation plan.


Hundreds of people were left stranded at Caiguna Roadhouse due to the bushfires and road closures. (Supplied: Ben Stamatovich/The Drone Way)

Firefighters, police and Main Roads crews would be utilised during the operation.

“Once we’ve got all of the travellers off that we’re aware of, we’ll do a scan along the highway,” Superintendent Bowen said.

“We’re also using aircraft, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft along the highway just trying to identify anyone that may be camping in other areas.”


Bushfires burning near Norseman have blanketed the remote town in smoke for weeks. (Supplied: Lynn Webb)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Nullarbor road closures from bushfires could hit Perth grocery shelves

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Bushfires that have closed major highways on the Nullarbor could end up costing the economy millions of dollars and cause widespread food shortages, with the situation set to get worse before it gets better.

Key points:

  • A catastrophic fire danger rating has been in place with very hot, dry and windy conditions
  • The only sealed road between WA and SA is likely to remain closed for another five days
  • Authorities are turning back west-bound traffic with supply issues to roadhouses becoming dire

About 140 firefighters are battling eight fire fronts that have cut off the small WA town of Norseman, about 700 kilometres south-east of Perth, for extended periods since the first blaze began on December 16.

The situation escalated recently when authorities advised the Eyre Highway — the only sealed road linking Western Australia and South Australia — would be closed for at least the next five days.

A fire emergency, which has since been downgraded, was also declared for the Balladonia Roadhouse, which is located 220 kilometres east of Norseman and 155 kilometres to the west of the Caiguna Roadhouse, where about 250 truck drivers and holidaymakers have become stranded.

Authorities are turning back west-bound motorists at Eucla, 12 kilometres west of the South Australian border, because the supply situation at roadhouses along the 1,660-kilometre-long Eyre Highway has become dire.


Fire authorities provide an update to people stranded at Caiguna Roadhouse. (Supplied: Denise Leppard/West Aussie Nomads)

Department of Fire and Emergency Services incident controller Peter Sutton said the catastrophic fire conditions in the region were not helping, with the mercury hitting 47 degrees Celsius in Caiguna yesterday.

“We are seeing new fires each day and are expecting a lightning belt to come through here soon with dry lightning and we expect that will start additional fires,” Mr Sutton said.

“We’ve got 140 firefighters on the ground, 20 machines are working, and those machinery operators, I’ve just got to commend them and also the firefighters who are working in very, very trying conditions.

“We had eight aircraft within the fire zone, which include four waterbombers and they are doing an amazing job for us.”

Food, medicine shortages tipped in Perth

Emergency supplies, including medicine, are being brought in to Norseman and Caiguna.

The peak body for road transport companies in WA warned the bushfires would start to have an impact on food prices and possibly medicines in Perth.

External Link:

Public meeting in Norseman

“Things that we are bringing across from the east … things like cherries, stone fruit, watermelon, pumpkin, they’ll run into short supply,” Western Roads Federation CEO Cam Dumesny said.

“Even some of your temperature-controlled medicines. We’ll start having shortages of those or certainly interruptions to those into WA.

“On the other side of the coin, our seafood, avocado and lettuce producers are having problems because we can’t get their produce to market on the east coast.”

Mr Dumesny said the cost to businesses and the wider economy will be enormous, saying one of the bigger transport companies had about 50 trucks on the road when the fires started last month.

“They’re holding a lot of their road trains back in anticipation of the roads being reopened, but it does leave some of our drivers stuck out there without too many alternatives,” he said.

“It’s a major problem.”

Both Woolworths and Coles have warned shoppers to expect food shortages.


Signs were put up at Woolworths in Palmyra warning customers of the situation. (Supplied)

“Due to the closure of the Eyre Highway and the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway, our WA customers may see shortages of a range of fruit and vegetables over the coming days,” a Woolworths said in a statement.

Coles said a number of trucks carrying fresh produce to its Perth distribution centre had been delayed by the road closures.

“We are rerouting deliveries and using rail where possible, however availability of some fresh fruit and vegetable lines may be impacted in coming days,” the company said.

The supermarkets apologised to customers for the inconvenience and said they were “working hard” to re-stock shelves as soon as possible.

Truck drivers in for long haul

The ABC spoke with truck driver Tim Buckland in Coolgardie, where he has been stuck on the side of the highway for the past four days.


Truck driver Tim Buckland has been stuck in Coolgardie for the past three days. (ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)

Coolgardie is nearly 200km from the fire front at Norseman, but it is where the road blocks begin.

External Link:

Esperance Police Tweet

Mr Buckland dropped off a load of bananas in Perth and was heading home to Tully in northern Queensland.

“We knew about the road closures when I left Perth, but we didn’t imagine there would be this much of a delay,” he said.

“We just came out in the hope it would be open when we got here.

“I’d rather be stuck here than stuck in the middle of a bushfire.”

Mr Buckland praised the hospitality of locals in Coolgardie who he said had welcomed the fleet of truck drivers with open arms.

He described the Nullarbor road closures as unprecedented, and said he was happy to wait to avoid a repeat of the Boorabbin bushfire disaster on New Year’s Eve 2007, when three truck drivers died after driving into a firestorm along the Great Eastern Highway.

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years and I’ve never had anything like this,” he said.

“I’ve been held up with floods in NSW before, but nothing for this amount of time.

“There’s nothing we can do about it, so we’ve just got to wait until it’s safe to continue on and let the firies get on with their job.

“I’m quite happy to stay here until I’m told it’s safe.”

External Link:

Aerial view of Caiguna Roadhouse

External Link:

Norseman Police Tweet

Perth truck driver Chris Fullgrabe is heading to Melbourne and said he always carried enough food and water to sustain himself in the case of a remote breakdown.

He had been parked in Coolgardie for 36 hours when he spoke to the ABC, and said he had also been stranded for three days at Balladonia before Christmas.

“If my boss wants me to wait here three days, I’ll wait three days,” he said.

“It is frustrating, but the service stations here do a great job, there are showers for truck drivers and people travelling in caravans, so you’ve just got to have a bit of patience.

“A few [trucks] have gone back [to Perth], but there’s still a few waiting around, but at the end of the day it’s up to your bosses as to whether you stick it out.”

Roadhouses running on empty

Perth man Jason Leppard was on the last leg of a three-year caravan trip with his wife, daughter, and dog when they became stuck at Caiguna Roadhouse.


A lighter moment at Caiguna where about 250 people have been stranded during the bushfire crisis. (Supplied: Denise Leppard/West Aussie Nomads)

He said the crowd had thinned since authorities told people about the extended road closures.

External Link:

DFES flying in supplies

“We were travelling from Ceduna, heading west back home and we’ve been holed up here for three days,” he said.

“We have a pup on board as well so that’s another mouth to feed.

“We had a meeting and it was suggested if it was non-essential to head west, turn around and go back east, which did clear out some of the people.”

Caiguna Roadhouse has had emergency supplies flown in after running out of toilet paper on Wednesday.

“There’s quite a restriction on the water supply from the roadhouse,” he said.

“Bottles are on sale but they’re quite expensive at $6 a pop for a litre and a half.

“Tap water, which is drinkable, just trickles out.

“The basics we need are toilet paper and soap otherwise you’ve got another health issue that’s going to pop up and cause all sorts of problems.”

More bushfire coverage:

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

WA bushfire alert downgraded, but vital east-west national highway remains closed

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The alert level for a bushfire which flared near the Balladonia Roadhouse in Western Australia’s south-east has been downgraded, but an important link road between Perth and Adelaide remains closed and is not expected to re-open for at least five days.

Key points:

  • The fire has been burning in bushland since December 20
  • It has closed hundreds of kilometres of the Eyre Highway, which links WA to SA
  • People at the Balladonia Roadhouse are advised to leave if the way is clear

Multiple fires have been burning in the Shire of Dundas, but one reached emergency warning level after flames came close to the remote roadhouse, on the Eyre Highway, about 500 kilometres from the WA-SA border.

More than 400 kilometres of the Eyre Highway is closed between Esperance and Caiguna.

According to Main Roads WA, it is likely to remain closed for a minimum of five days.

“WA Police urge people to stop taking back tracks and unsealed roads to try and avoid road closures which are in place due to the current fire emergency,” a statement from Main Roads said.

“The Trans Access Road is closed to all traffic due to bushfires.”

The road is an important link for heavy freight trucks travelling between states.

External Link:

Caiguna Roadhouse video

The fire, which closed the highway, has been burning since December 20, while fires in the nearby Dundas Reserve have been ongoing since Sunday.

The historic mining town of Norseman has been cut off for extended periods over the past fortnight, with about 270,000 hectares destroyed by seven separate fire fronts in the WA Goldfields region.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has warned homes are not designed or constructed to withstand a fire in today’s conditions.

There was a catastrophic fire danger rating in the Goldfields and Eucla region on Thursday.

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and the evacuations.

Temperatures in the Goldfields topped 43.9 degrees Celsius today.

However, in Norseman, near the fire, the temperature only reached 33.3C.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Bushfires cause travel chaos on Nullarbor’s only sealed WA-SA road

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A remote roadhouse on the Nullarbor has run out of toilet paper and is running low on beer and even more essential food items as bushfires cause chaos for truck drivers and holidaymakers travelling between Western Australia and South Australia.

Key points:

  • Eyre Highway and Coolgardie-Esperance Highway will be closed for the foreseeable future with “catastrophic” fire conditions forecast for Thursday
  • An additional four strike teams from around WA have arrived to fight the bushfires which brings the number to about 120
  • Authorities are asking people to avoid the area, seek alternative routes, and ensure they have enough food and water supplies

The historic mining town of Norseman has been cut off for extended periods over the past fortnight, with about 270,000 hectares destroyed by seven separate fire fronts in the WA Goldfields region.

The Caiguna Roadhouse, 400 kilometres east of Norseman along the Eyre Highway, has become the temporary home for about 250 truck drivers and holidaymakers stranded by the out-of-control bushfires.

Caiguna Roadhouse manager Maureen O’Halloran said the latest closure has been in effect since Monday afternoon, saying about 40 caravans and 20 trucks are parked outside.

Follow our live blog for updates on bushfires and the evacuations.

“The fires are 200 kilometres away so we’re not in danger of the fire at all,” she said.

“People want to get as close as possible to where they’re going, so they’re still coming this way instead of stopping at the border.


About 250 people have been stranded in Caiguna by bushfires. (Supplied: Denise Leppard/West Aussie Nomads)

“A few have turned around and gone back to South Australia or tried to find accommodation back down the highway, but it’s basically booked out all the way to the border.”

A helicopter is being organised to fly in essential food supplies like milk, bread, and bottled water to Caiguna from Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

External Link:

Caiguna Roadhouse video

Ms O’Halloran said the truck drivers are used to life on the road and have been patient during the delays, but some holidaymakers have lost their cool in the scorching summer heat.

“There’s been a few tempers here and there but we’re coping,” she said.

“We’re trying our best to service people. The hardest thing to service is people’s aggro.


Bushfires burning near Norseman have blanketed the remote WA town in smoke for weeks. (Supplied: Lynn Webb)

“Most of the people here understand that we’re running out of everything, including beer and alcohol.

“At the moment I’ve got 25 to 30 people in my bar and I’ve probably got 20 cartons of beer left.

“I’ve plenty of light beer which nobody is drinking, but if it (the road closure) goes into another day they might be drinking it.”

Water bombers to aid fire fight

Two water bombers are being flown in to fight the bushfires which have been burning since December 16 and closed the interstate route for several days in the lead-up to Christmas

External Link:

Firefighters inside the Norseman bushfire

DFES Superintendent Anthony Sadler said fires burning near Balladonia are close to the Eyre Highway and it would not be safe for motorists.

The closures will be in place for at least the next 48 hours.

“There is smoke over the road and crews are performing backburning operations, so it is very unsafe to let people through,” he said.

“I understand there will be many people trying to get along those transport routes and my advice is for those travellers to be patient, we are doing what we can and hopefully we can get those roads open ASAP.

“What we don’t want is for people to continue to travel west because a lot of these roadhouses are not set up for large numbers of people and it puts a lot of pressure on them to maintain food and water, and supplies can run out.”

Acting Police Superintendent Craig Davis said motorists have attempted to bypass the road closures by driving on unsealed bush tracks which he said is reckless and dangerous.

He said there have been a couple of incidents over the past week where police have had to rescue motorists who became bogged in a remote area near the Trans Australian Railway.

“Our advice is please, do not try to take alternative routes,” he said.

“It is chewing up our resources when they get bogged or stranded and then we have to take action to get them free.”

Mr Davis said the road closures had occurred at the worst possible time.

“Whenever you close off a major highway it’s always a concern,” he said.

“That’s the gateway from the eastern states to WA, so it’s critical to get it open as soon as possible. But DFES are making informed decisions on when they open or close it.

“No time is a good time [to close the highway], but this time of year is probably worst.”

Travellers and truckies stranded together


Traffic is starting to build up at Cocklebiddy Roadhouse on the Nullarbor. (Supplied: Ben Stamatovich/The Drone Way)

Perth man Mark Sheehan and his wife are driving back from Victoria where he spent Christmas with his grandchildren.

They got as far as Eucla, 12km from the South Australian border, when he heard about the road closures.

Mr Sheehan said all the hotel rooms have been booked out in Eucla and many people will either be pitching a tent or sleeping in their cars.

“We got one of the last rooms in Eucla,” Mr Sheehan told the ABC.

“We had no idea the road was cut off, and just from chatting to other people who are stuck here I can tell nobody knew.

“I am thinking of driving back to Adelaide and putting my car on a train and flying home.”


Patrons escape the heat waiting inside the Caiguna Roadhouse. (Supplied: Denise Leppard/West Aussie Nomads)

Ben Stamatovich and his co-driver, wife Jacinta Brennan, make the 64-hour, 5,700-kilometre round trip from Adelaide to Perth every week.

Mr Stamatovich said he counted 17 trucks parked at Cocklebiddy and estimated as many as 300 trucks could be banked up at roadhouses across the Nullarbor over the next 48 hours.

“There’s not that much you can do about it. S**t happens, I suppose,” he said.

“It’s just unfortunate because a lot of the truck drivers have missed Christmas and New Year with their families because of the fires.

“It’s the same for the firefighters as well.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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