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Floods Claim Second Life

The Sunday Age

Sunday February 1, 1998

THE record flood which devastated the Outback town of Katherine last week has claimed a second life.

An elderly man's body was found yesterday on a property about 15 kilometres from the town, about 300 kilometres south of Darwin.

A police spokeswoman said the man was believed to have drowned in the floodwaters which hit the town last Monday after 500mm of rain in two days caused the Katherine River to peak at a record 20 metres.

No details of the dead man were available.

On Thursday night, the body of an as yet unidentified man from the local Warlpiri Aboriginal people was found in Katherine.

The man was in his 50s and appeared to have drowned, police said.

Yesterday, police announced that the Stuart Highway between Katherine and Darwin would be opened to all traffic for the first time since the floodwaters washed away sections of it earlier this week.

However, a spokeswoman said that, in parts, the road was still in a poor condition and motorists should be extremely careful, especially when crossing the Edith River Bridge, about 13 kilometres north of Katherine.

The record floods forced more than 1600 Katherine residents to flee their their homes for evacuation centres.

The residents are now returning to their homes to begin the clean-up. Many have lost all their possessions.

Meanwhile, the Australian Defence Force relief effort is being stepped up.

Yesterday, an extra 300 troops were sent to the area to help in the clean-up, bringing the total number of defence force personnel to more than 1000.

The majority of the effort is being directed to reopening the local hospital, preparing emergency accommodation and removing rotting material which could pose a health risk to the community.

Last week, the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, pledged financial aid to victims of the Katherine floods and to help rebuild communications to the town.

Mr Howard promised $1000 for every adult and $200 for every child affected by the flooding.

Mr Howard also pledged $5 million in federal funds to go to rebuilding the Stuart Highway, the main highway between Adelaide and Darwin, which was cut by the floods.

He said he would set up a taskforce that would include the federal Finance Minister, Mr John Fahey, and representatives of banks and insurance companies, to look into problems faced by those not insured against flooding.

© 1998 The Sunday Age

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